Film Pop: Burke and Hare

Year:  2010
Director:  John Landis
Stars:  Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher

This past weekend I wasted the vast majority of my time playing games, and dedicated very little of it to my pop quest.  I also started a new job today and will have far less time to play with than I’ve been used to.  I did however manage to squeeze in (over two days) Burke and Hare, this “historical” “comedy”, with a surprisingly star-filled cast.  It’s not a film I own, but I was relatively interested in watching it; my girlfriend was in agreement, so that was settled.  Simon Pegg’s a funny guy, and Andy Serkis is… er… sometimes recorded moving.

Usually with less face.
Usually with less face.

The film, framed by the narration of Angus the Hangman (Bill Bailey) is an interpretation of the tale of the titular Williams Burke and Hare (Pegg and Serkis respectively).  When a client dies in their lodging-house, they sell the body to Dr Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson) and realise that there is a desperate shortage of fresh bodies for medical experimentation, and therefore money to be made.  Of course they can’t rely on old men continuing to leave bodies lying around, so the two turn to procuring their corpses by… other means. Meanwhile ex-prostitute Ginny (Fisher) comes up with a plan to propel herself into stardom by producing an all-bah1female performance of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, because Scotland.  She is however short of the startup cash, until she meets Burke, a man looking for sex love and a way to spend his new-found blood money.  Burke invests in this unsurprisingly-successful show, while Hare and his wife Lucky (Jessica Hynes) decide to invent the funeral parlour, because logic.  However, the titular duo are unable to keep their nefarious activities under wraps, and are caught, along with their respective female partners, by lawman Captain McLintock (Ronnie Corbett) and chucked in jail.  The establishment, wishing to avoid the indignity of a trial, offer them a deal:  if one confesses, the rest will go free.  Burke heroically gives himself up, because love sex.

To be frank, this film wasn’t very good.  It was a little funny at times, but this was overshadowed by the wild historical inaccuracies, which involved shoehorning in as many historical medical figures as possible and going as far as to add on a “this is what happened to the characters” scene at the end containing roughly no true information.  The general plot bears almost no resemblance to historical events, and is really “Burke and Hare” in little more than name and broad premise.  It’s also difficult to identify with any of the characters when the “heroes” are creepy murder-perverts (Andy Serkis?  Ew). The performances are decent but nothing special (I assume Fisher was cast due to the colour of her hair), and it’s not hard to see why the film only made back less than half of its £10m budget at the box office.

My Rating:  5/10


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