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Burke & Hare

September 4, 2011

Burke: I had confidence in a fart once, and I shat all over myself.

Burke and Hare can come off as awfully silly in many instances. It also comes off as awfully dull. It irritates me when a film capable of being great doesn’t live up to my expectations. The main problem is easily the horrible storyline, which consists of nothing but low-brow humor as well as being plain uninteresting. Having said that, I didn’t completely hate it. With a cast boasting the likes of Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, and Isla Fisher, you wouldn’t expect such a dull film, but at least they save the film from being a complete disaster in the long run. There are many, lovely, individual moments that I truly enjoyed, but they are tangled in a mess of a script, and incoherent direction, along with a waste of talented actors, making Burke and Hare awfully disappointing.


Based on factual events, Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis star as William Burke and William Hare, two nut-jobs who murder people for a living so that they can be dissected by Dr. Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson), in a very gruesome and unorthodox manner. Being goofballs and whatnot, these two do their job in the most mischievous and difficult way as possible, leading to something much worse. When they go out late at night to rob a grave, they are spotted by nearby patrol, and just barely escape (except for a gunshot on ones arse). Soon after, the patrolmen begin investigating the mysterious deaths around town and it’s up to these two to keep it a secret.

Meanwhile, Burke meets the beautiful  Ginny Hawkins (Isla Fisher) at an old-fashioned “Titanic-looking” bar, she is an aspiring Shakespeare fanatic who craves for the opportunity to open an all-woman production of MacBeth, with the help of Burke’s generous donation that he did so un-accordingly to the bosses orders, which gets him into even more trouble (as if he wasn’t too busy with all of the killing and secrets and whatnot). Ginny’s play is very successful, and we are constantly reminded of the standing ovation it received. Burke continues to fall more and more in love with her, but when Ginny finds out about his profession, they will have to put their love to a whole new level.

As I said, it irritates me when a film capable of being solid falls short due to it’s constant dullness. I had high hopes for this one, having been a Pegg fan since his glory days in Spaced (the show’s Co-star Jessica Hynes has a small role in this) to his fantastic buddy comedies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), as well as Andy Serkis, who I have given lots of praise for his great performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, as well as his motion capture in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They had some funny parts, but are brought down by lazy writing and storytelling. It seemed like a pretty clever idea to put them together; it wasn’t, it was average, and that’s due to the writing.

For their first “major” writing gig, Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft have succeeded in forming a story that I wouldn’t expect anybody to care about, along with many of the characters. Next to the story, the dialogue is easily the worst aspect pertaining to this. Half of the dialogue consists of low-brow slapstick humor, while the other half does have some genuinly clever and funny moments, but not nearly enough to maintain my full attention. That’s not even the worst part.

I was severally disappointed with John Landis’ direction. He’s brought us the greats such as Animal House and Blues Brothers, and when I heard he was in the works for this, I was pretty psyched. I’m still trying to figure out what happened, because not only does he have no idea what to do with these actors, the camera work is horrid. There are countless shots that are all over the place, blurry, and hard to keep track of. The editing process must have consisted of a bunch of monkeys because it feels like we are watching two movies at once, and at the same time, keeping it detrimentally difficult to stay on track with the convoluted plot.

By no means is this movie terrible, it just is not all that much entertaining and has the tendency to come off as dull in many instances. There’s a certain amount of fun watching Pegg and Serkis getting into their wild antics, but are dumbed down by a slapstick-reliable script that has a clear inconsistency that is low-brow. A real let down from a director I had high respect for prior to this, who is the culprit responsible for the terribly rushed editing process. There are few moments of clever, witty humor, but certainly not enough to classify Burke & Hare as a good film. At it’s best, it is a rental.

Burke & Hare = 2 out of 5

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2011 1:46 am

    Very nice, i suggest webmaster can set up a forum, so that we can talk and communicate.

  2. September 6, 2011 8:38 am

    I suggest not.

  3. William Kablonsky permalink
    September 6, 2011 12:26 pm

    I have seen the same movie. Burke & Hare is an elegant, dark and funny romantic comedy and Matt Goodman’s response to “Patricia” demonstrates what a shitty and cranky fellow he is. Aside from getting character names wrong (Isla Fisher does not play someone named “Helen MacDougall”), Goodman seems to have almost everything wrong about this film, you can’t be a critic if you don’t like this film, that means you suck. I suggest you see it and decide for yourself. You suck at movie reviewing!

  4. September 6, 2011 1:05 pm

    Aw look at Mr. Opinionated here. First off, I never said “Helen MacDougall. Second, I said that to Patricia because it was clearly spam. If you’re just going to insult someones review, I’d suggest you go somewhere else because you obviously can’t accept the fact that someone disliked a movie that you love so much. I bet your favorite movie consists all of the Scary Movie’s too.

  5. Dante permalink
    September 8, 2011 7:44 pm

    Excellent review Matt!

  6. Dante permalink
    September 8, 2011 7:45 pm

    It didn’t even sound good from the trailer.

  7. September 10, 2011 11:05 am

    Right on, man.

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