Director: John Landis
Running time: 88 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15
UK Release date: 29th October 2010
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 17th September 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
When I first heard they were making a film about the notorious grave robbers and murderers, Burke and Hare, I was quite interested. When I latterly heard it was to be a comedy, I was not only quite taken aback, but also quite annoyed! If you know their story you’ll know they were quite brutal and evil men who quite deserved their ultimate fate. To trivialise it seems quite wrong to me; however, I decided to face my demons and give it a viewing. Now, I always try to watch a film with an open mind and look for the good ahead of the (usually quite obvious) bad. With this in mind, I put aside my preconceptions and hit play on my Sky+ box. I’ll give you my thoughts after this brief summary (bet you knew I was gonna do that).
In the early nineteenth century Edinburgh was the place to be to learn about human anatomy. Two colleges competed for students and, consequently, dead bodies for them to study. Dr Robert Knox ran the Barclay School of Surgery and Dr Munro ran the Royal College of Surgeons. Munro was also a politician and used his position to ensure his school had a good supply of bodies from public executions and the like. This left Knox needing a supplier and this came in the form of two Irish immigrants, William Burke and William Hare. They stumbled into the business when one of Hare’s lodgers dies and they discover that Dr Knox would pay them good money for the corpse. They begin with grave robbing but find that a bit too much like hard work. Cutting out the middle man (as it were) they progress to murdering their victims. After a while the missing people are, well, missed and the local Militia begin to investigate… Is this the end for Burke and Hare? Well, if you know the story then you’ll know the answer, but I’m not going to say here or the Spoiler Police militia will have me strung up by dawn.
Quite a well made film that doesn’t tax the grey cells too much, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from John Landis. As far as the acting goes, everyone was good without any stand-out performances. Simon Pegg as William Burke and Andy Serkis as William Hare both did a decent job. Tom Wilkinson was quite proficient as Doctor Robert Knox, as was Tim Curry as Doctor Monro. Honourable mentions go to; Jessica Hynes as Lucky, Ronnie Corbett as Captain Tam McLintoch and Isla Fisher as Ginny Hawkins. Also there are nice cameo’s from Christopher Lee as Old Joseph, Paul Whitehouse as gentleman Drunk, Michael Winner as Gentleman Passenger, Stephen Merchant as Hollyrood Footman and Jenny Agutter as Lucy.
The film begins with the statement; “This is a true story, apart from the parts that are not”. Unfortunately, the filmmakers have kept up with the tradition of making the vast majority of the story up from “the parts that are not”. This is not the only problem for me, I found that in trying to make the main protagonists likeable they totally trivialised the positively evil acts they were committing, which, I’m sure many will agree, isn’t right. There’s a sub-plot about Burke using his money to finance a theatrical production that is used for some justification of his part in the crimes they were committing, but it didn’t really work (for me at least). It’s not all bad though, I did like some of the less obvious humour on show, the nod to Greyfriars Bobby was quite a welcome distraction but over all I’m afraid I didn’t find it charming, funny, or ever “Outrageously Funny” as I’ve seen on a poster or two. Over all, yes, there are a few laughs on the way, but it soon falls flat on its arse and doesn’t really get up again… Not recommended.
My Score: 3.7/10.
IMDb Score: 6.1/10 (based on 4,467 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36/100 (based on 45 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:
Official Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BurkeandHareMovie