Journey back to the 80s in this good-natured film, a world filled with bleached highlights, dodgy pirate videos and French exchange students with asymmetrical T-shirts.
Sheltered Will (Bill Milner) isn’t allowed to watch TV at school because of his family’s strict religious views. Bad boy Lee Carter (Will Poulter) is constantly being kicked out of class. They meet in the hall outside their classrooms, where Lee bullies Will into helping him make a film to enter in Screentest (an 80s BBC film competition for kids). When it transpires that Will’s TV-less imagination has been on full throttle while he’s supposed to have been studying the bible, Lee knows he’s onto a winner, and their reworking of Rambo, Son Of Rambow, is born. The English countryside is soon filled with pint-sized Nam vets exploding things and generally battling the forces of evil.
There’s lots to enjoy here: the 80s details all feel pretty accurate, it’s affectionate, and does a good job of bringing the two outsiders together. But it never quite kicks into full throttle – there are lots of scenes, like the 6th form common room, or the Adam Buxton cameo (he shot the recent Radiohead online stuff with them, fact fans), which feel like the Hammer & Tongs team just wanted to include them, without really thinking about their place in the film’s narrative; it’s a lot looser than it might have been.
That said, it’s always good to see a British film that avoids the costume drama/romcom track, and it’s certainly not a waste of time – more that ultimately it doesn't fully deliver on the concept's promise.
Like Be Kind Rewind, this is a film dedicated to the spirit of the VHS age, when you could stick a tape into a giant portable camera and lug it around while you filmed your adventures. But that’s almost the problem – it’s a film that talks about that moment when you first discover the power of cinema, rather than giving a new generation that moment for itself; nostalgia rather than first-hand excitement. Funny it’s coming out just before the new Rambo too.