Monday, November 28, 2011

Review - Burke and Hare (2010)

“Six years in the Army I don't get a scratch. Ten minutes as a grave robber I get shot in the ass.”

Director: John Landis
Starring: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Jessica Hynes, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry, Isla Fischer and Bill Bailey.
Writers: Piers Ashworth, Nick Moorcroft

You would think that the man who made An American Werewolf in London would be able to get the right balance of horror and comedy in a film? However in Burke and Hare we have a movie that fails to be really funny, and doesn’t really horrify. Then again maybe this isn’t a horror comedy, but just a black comedy. Well we come back to that whole not being funny thing. What went wrong? Let’s find out.

First off the acting isn’t that bad, in fact if it wasn’t for some of the actors I would have probably stopped paying any attention to the film. Simon Pegg as William Burke brings a certain lovability to his character which is impressive for someone who is a murderer. Andy Serkis (William Hare) and Jessica Hynes (Lucky) play the more deranged protagonists, for them death is not only a good way to make some money, but it’s great to patch up their relationship. Tom Wilkinson (Dr Robert Knox) is a noble presence with noble goals, but at the same time he’s pretty aware of what’s happening so yet again he’s a bastard. Isla Fischer tries her best as Ginny Hawkins who is Burke’s love interest, but a lot of the comedy around her falls flat. Everyone else is trying to bring a comedic vibe in their actions and delivery; but really has nothing to latch on to.

The script has to be the biggest villain of this movie. Comedic moments just don’t gel, a lot of jokes fall flat, or the laughs they are going for are just tired. Considering the actual notion of the movie, there is a rich vein to mine for black comedy, and yet the script is lazy. It honestly wants to do the least amount of work it can. Also one of the most glaring problems with the movie is how it treats Burke and Hare as lovable scamps just trying to make some money. They are killers, and the movie is just wasting time trying to humanise them in a way so the audience is on their side. Hell even at the end of the movie a character points out we shouldn’t feel anything for them because they are killers. Thanks movie, I’m glad you are also aware that you’re wasting my time.

As for Mr Landis the movie doesn’t look to bad, and you can imagine a black comedy taking place in the setting. There is a pace to the movie so it doesn’t lag too much. But like the script there just seems to be a certain feeling of laziness. Landis is a good director, but it just feels like he’s going by the numbers. Maybe if the script was stronger, then the end product would have been more entertaining. I think Landis still has the potential to make good films, but maybe he needs to work with someone who can help him tap into that potential. A young script writer perhaps. But whatever you think, Landis probably needs to challenge himself to really get the creative juices flowing.

This movie suffers from just not embracing its source material and taking it to a darker place. There is just a mixed tone, that doesn’t gel, and the comedy seems very by the numbers. Most of the actors step up and try to make the most of what they are given but they just don’t make it. The core of this movie is lacking, and as such nothing truly good grows. I don’t think people will hate this movie out right, but perhaps it’s best to go look at Landis’s earlier work.

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