Wednesday, 6 April 2011

REVIEW: Burke & Hare

Why does John Landis do this to himself? He hasn't done a film since 1998's Susan's Plan and ... Blues Brothers 2000 - so where did it all go wrong? And why does it keep going wrong?

You would think with such a line-up as Tom Wilkinson, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fischer, Tim Curry, Bill Bailey, Christopher Lee, Ronnie Corbett and more that it would have to go fairly wrong to be awful and it's the cast that really keep this atrocity afloat.

The story goes that Pegg and Serkis as Burke and Hare go around snatching bodies to sell them for science. But to raise income they start killing people to get their numbers up and Wilkinson's Dr. Knox is happy to receive them. At the same time, Pegg is falling for Fischer as she commits to her dream of putting on Macbeth at a local theatre. Soon enough the authorities, played wonderfully by Corbett, catch up to them.

The story is simple and the script very, very unfunny. That's not really much of a surprise since it comes from the guys who wrote St. Trinians and to be honest, it isn't much different in tone. The macabre arc completely jars with everything, they try so hard for the characters to be likeable yet slightly evil and selfish. It's a horrible mixture and a strange final redemption is too little too late and really brings you out of the film. There's also not much screen time or banter between Burke and Hare, especially as soon as Fischer gets involved and Burke's wife is played by Jessica Hynes who you can't help but feel sorry for as she keeps getting Pegg's handouts.

Pegg is the more innocent, starry eyed dreamer of the two which makes him the least interesting character of the whole piece. Serkis hardly gets a look in and it's a shame as he seems much more up for killing and is a lot more complex in a way that anything could be complex in this film. The whole thing about the play, which takes up a lot of screen-time, is that it keeps shifting the focus away and no matter how many cameos you throw in  (including the old guys from Trading Places), it's just getting in more buckets to stop a sinking ship of a movie. However, Wilkinson and Curry amongst others did lift the piece from the gutter on more than one occasion but I couldn't help but think my eyes were being dug out in a vain attempt to get access to my brain and make me become dumber until I started thinking that Paul Whitehouse falling down some stairs is really, really funny.

This was supposed to be Landis' big comeback but it felt like an annoying, humourless, stupid attempt to do something quite dark (they are serial killers after all) and put a fluffy edge to it. I found it to be a complete waste of time and because of the people involved and the money thrown at it - it makes me think that this should have been so much more. I wasn't that bored throughout the piece so I guess that's something, but this is lazy writing and acting and feels like someone has filmed a themed murder mystery and made a 90 minute feature about it.

Rating: 3/10

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