Burke And Hare - DVD Review

'flat and lifeless where it should be dynamic and inventive'

John Landis' first major film since 1998's Blues Brothers 2000, Burke And Hare suggests that the American director might have lost his touch during his period of absence from the comedy genre and the big screen. Although the film performs perfunctorily well on occasion its littered with a selection of scenes which don't fire at all and hampered by a horrible final half hour which seems to belong to a different film all together.

Early scenes offer little hope to those approaching this with their optimism still in tact. The leading character's introduction, setting William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis) up as a pair of no-good swindlers, is flat and lifeless where it should be dynamic and inventive. It's a stock scene of a pair of likely lads trying to con a crowd and its absolutely devoid of laughs or invention.

Leading on from here Landis does eventually click into gear with Pegg and Serkis providing some solid laughs amongst the occasionally unconvincing Edinburgh sets. At a pacey ninety-one minutes, the film motors on fairly pleasantly until it gets woefully bogged down in a ludicrous side plot involving Isla Fisher's character's desire to put on an all female performance of MacBeth. Landis incredibly allows this quest to become the focus and prime motivator of the piece and very slowly the film gets bogged down with it, the laughs drying up as we plod on through such meaningless frivolities as a gangster intervention and an all-but-forgotten-about rivalry between two doctors (Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry).

Come the end, Landis appears to have forgotten that he's making a comedy and it's in this segment that the director leaves himself open to criticisms of manipulating a real-life pair of horrible hoodlums into a comedy for his own convenience. Apparently needing to redress the balance, the final third is more of a straight drama as Burke in particular seeks redemption. It doesn't fit and in Landis' concluding statement there's only Jessica Hynes' late comedic surge to save the film from complete failure.

Look further...

'a run of the mill return for John Landis' - Slacker Cinema, 2/5

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