Friday, 27 January 2012

Burke and Hare (2010)

William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis) are two Irish entrepreneurs who have come to 19th century Edinburgh in search of a new life. Quickly found to be frauds while trying to sell Irish Moss (actually cheese mould) as a cure for all ailments, they soon find it far more lucrative to rob graves/commit murder and sell the bodies for medical dissection. But the militia are closing in.

I must say that it was very refreshing to see a film set in Scotland, and none of the Scottish accents were awful; equally Pegg and Serkis’ Irish accents were pretty good. There’s nothing worse than a film being totally ruined by someone attempting a specific accent and falling flat on their face; but here at least I don’t think it’s an issue.

Usually in films where Simon Pegg is the main or one of the main characters he is fantastic and really rules the roost, but here I feel that he is upstaged by Andy Serkis whose rubbery face is capable of so much expression. It is Andy’s character that drives the story forward (along with his wife Lucky - Jessica Hynes), whereas Pegg’s characters generally has to be convinced of the merits of killing people! Do you think that Hare’s wife Lucky helping to make some of the more macabre business decisions is mirroring the driving force of Lady Macbeth in the first all-women production of the Scottish play that Ginny (Isla Fisher) is putting on? No, actually probably not! I think my imagination is getting the better of me!

Around the two main characters there are more than capable supporting performances from Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry, Bill Bailey, David Schofield, Jessica Hynes, as well as a few cameos by the likes of Christopher Lee and Paul Whitehouse. Isla Fisher perhaps isn’t great, and the casting of Ronnie Corbett as the Captain of the Militia was an odd choice and not a particularly good one in my opinion.

This macabre tale of these famous Edinburgh murders is very suitable for American Werewolf in London director John Landis and he brings his gallows sense of humour to the film. All of the sets are very gloomy bringing a dingy, spooky edge to 19th Century Edinburgh. Burke & Hare is never going to win any awards, but there is plenty to enjoy. The two main characters are very affable and since the film doesn’t take itself seriously it is really quite entertaining; plenty of humour and enough background detail to engage the viewer (at least one is very Edinburgh specific). Good honest fun.