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Burke & Hare

Burke & Hare

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

LEGENDARY director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London/The Blues Brothers/Trading Places) has set out to turn two of Scotland’s most revered killers into the ‘evil Laurel & Hardy’… with predictably lukewarm results.

Burke & Hare is a tepid experience in that it’s neither sinister enough nor funny enough to really do the true story or black comedy elements justice. And that’s in spite of the impressive array of talent assembled to bring it to the screen.

Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis star as Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare who turn to a life of crime to put food in their mouths and make a fortune.

They do this by murdering Edinburgh townsfolk in order to donate their bodies to the medical research being carried out by two competing experts: Drs Knox (Tom Wilkinson) and Monroe (Tim Curry).

Burke also finds an extra reason to persist with the kilings so that he can help the love of his life, aspiring actress Ginny (Isla Fisher) put on the first all-female production of Macbeth – a romantic sub-plot that has no basis in truth.

Landis’ movie was always going to have it’s work cut out marrying the comedy with the macabre but the director has a good track record for achieving this and is also doing so with the backing of the revived Ealing Studios, who have also specialised in this area with past offerings such as The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts & Coronets.

But the script for Burke & Hare simply isn’t funny enough, relying on obvious jokes and sit-com style strained humour to try and generate laughs. The more intriguing elements surrounding medical cover-ups and aristocratic mid-deeds are also delivered in laboured fashion.

What’s left, and what makes Burke & Hare at least passable, is the winning chemistry between the amiable Serkis and Pegg as well as the wealth of cameos that litter proceedings.

There’s fleeting mirth to be found in guest spots from Ronnie Corbett, Paul Whitehouse and Stephen Merchant, while the eagle eyed should enjoy catching glimpses of legends such as Christopher Lee and Ray Harryhausen.

Landis, though, is capable of much better than this, which makes the ultimate failure of Burke & Hare all the more disheartening. It seems damning to be a damning verdict indeed to say that the film merely passes the time.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 92mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 21, 2011