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Released just in time for Halloween is the macabre tale of Burke and
Hare! Set in 1820's Edinburgh, two Irish immigrants, William Burke
(Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis), try one business venture
after the next, and one after the next they fail. Just at the point
where they're about to face financial ruin, the duo come up with an
ingenious idea when they spot a in the niche in the market for the
supply and demand of fresh dead bodies which manages to turn their
The story is inspired by true events which took place in Edinburgh between November 1827 and 31 October 1828 when the real life Bukre and Hare murdered 16 people and sold their bodies to a private anatomy lecturer, Doctor Robert Knox (played by Tom Wilkinson in the film), for dissection at Edinburgh Medical College. Although this is the 8th time their story has been brought to the big screen, this marks the first time that we see them as two likable lead characters.
From a screenplay penned by Nick Moorcroft and Piers Ashworth and directed by the legendary John Landis, Burke And Hare harks back to the days of the old Ealing Studios dark comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955) which director John Landis is very fond of. It looks at the friendship between these two guys and focuses on the idea of who the bad guys really are. The doctors or the killers themselves? Mixing in a little Shakespeare with an all female production of Macbeth by Isla Fisher's character, Ginny, an aspiring young actress whom Burke falls madly in love with, another layer is added to the story. While Ginny ponders what would drive a man like Macbeth to murder, Burke looks at her and explains the character's motivation; "He did it for love".
By and large, I really enjoyed Bukre and Hare. The biggest challenge the story faced was turning two mass murderers into characters you can follow, laugh with and have empathy for and I think this film does it really well. As Burke is talked into the business with Hare, there's never the slightest feeling that his friend is purposefully leading him down a path to his own downfall, unlike the real Hare who gave Burke up in the end to escape a public hanging. Another element of the movie which was enjoyable was seeing so many familiar faces turning up in smaller roles; Ronnie Corbett decked out in his red and blue uniform as Captain McLintock, Christopher Lee as Old Joseph, one of Buke and Hare's early unfortunates and perhaps the most hilarious scene of all is when they push Paul Whitehouse down a flight of stairs! It's a good one to see if you're after something dark and funny this Halloween.
Expectations from other reviewers must have been too high. This movie is thoroughly enjoyable, despite the subject matter, which I suppose is the whole point. I found it to be comically dark as expected. Although in a lighter tone than "I sell the dead" which is another good film in the same vein. The casting was well composed and at times gave me the feel of a Terry Pratchett production. The sets and cinematography were spot on and very believable. I simply wouldn't try to compare this film to any of John Landis' previous works ,it stand on its own and demonstrates the dynamic abilities of both cast and crew. All in all worth a go if you are in the mood for a few good laughs.
Burke and Hare is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination,
but it is not a bad film either or completely deserving of all the
panning it got. It is far from talented director John Landis's best
film not like Blues Brothers or An American Werewolf in London, but it
is not his worst either as is the case with Blues Brothers 2000 and
Beverly Hills Cop III.
Does Burke and Hare completely work? No it doesn't. Is it entertaining? On the most part yes, even with the hits and misses. The film to me was never laugh-out-loud hilarious excepting two or three scenes(Jessica Hynes's eureka moment inventing funeral parlours being one), most of the time it was still amusing. In my view, the sight gags were better than the script. The sight gags range from nicely understated such as the pot shots at Wordsworth, Lister and Greyfriars Bobby to crass slapstick such as chamber pot contents being dropped on heads. There is even a sex scene that raised a laugh, decide for yourself whether it is intentional or not, whether it was or not I personally did find it amusing. The script(the smart black humour kind) varies as well from having a good chuckle, raising a smile to where I found myself rather blank faced.
John Landis does do a credible job directing. He mixes contemporary innovation and social issue with ease, and although he doesn't quite make Burke and Hare the dark, smart, hilarious homage to Ealing comedy it strived to be or the throwback to American Werewolf(the comedy and horror elements are decent on their own but have mixed results together), there is evidence of the effort which is what mattered. The character development is very straight forward, that I do agree with, but the cast do make an effort to make us empathise with them, and I think they succeeded there. The Georgian setting is also convincing, the sets are beautifully evoked and I quite liked the costumes and cinematography too.
I do think all the cast have done better before, but I cannot deny this is a great cast. Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis are a well-matched double act. They work very well together, and both give entertaining performances in the process. I also liked seeing Christopher Lee, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Whitehouse(the scene where he is pushed down the stairs is hilarious) and Bill Bailey even if their appearances are rather brief. Isla Fisher(the love story between her and Pegg though is pretty weak and underdeveloped) and Jessica Hynes are alluring and do show at least some flair for comedy, Hynes actually is very funny, and while they should have had more screen time Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry are suitably antagonistic and compelling. I do agree about the accents being variable, I had little problem with Pegg and Serkis and Wilkinson's was convincing, Curry just about passes, while Fisher's comes and goes and some of the cameos don't quite make it.
In conclusion, entertaining enough if somewhat hit-and-miss. With a longer length, perhaps more tighter pacing and some more care on the accents it could have been more. But the direction, setting and cast convinced me, so I enjoyed it. 7/10 Bethany Cox
Burke and Hare is a fast-paced, fun filled riot and the title roles are inhabited brilliantly by Simon Pegg (as William Burke) and Andy Serkis (as William Hare). Harking back to the good old American Werewolf days, Burke and Hare joyfully plays with your expectations, creating characters you like and sympathise with and then making you squirm as they nonchalantly murder their way through Edinburgh. Andy Serkis proves that he is the most easily likable man in the world with his earnest, all or nothing approach to acting, and as he reasons that mankind's fate is sealed the moment they're born, you almost find yourself nodding along happily when he suggests "helping them along the way". Simon Pegg has the straighter role, though not by far, as he gleefully goes from love-struck puppy-eyed romantic to monstrously suffocating old ladies in the blink of an eye, his facial expressions, mostly of dim witted "innocence" perfectly contrast with Serkis (Burke's reaction to Hare's coinage of the term "burking" is hilarious). All in all the duo are a perfect pare, thick as thieves and as funny as, well, horrible murderers.
Can't believe some of the negativity on here and in the press. And I really don't why people are saying that it isn't funny. This is a very funny, charming film in the tradition of the old Ealing comedies. The cinema I went to see it in was packed and was laughing all the way through. How anyone can say that Landis has delivered a turkey is baffling. It's witty, well shot, got great performances and it has Ronnie Corbett! Hilarious. I think this is a film that has suffered from all of the expectation and the mass marketing. I don't think it is consistently laugh out loud movie but it is consistently funny. I'm so glad that I got the chance to see something different, other than all of the franchise crap on offer at the moment. Two thumbs up to Landis, Pegg and Serkis and of course, Mr Ronnie Corbett, long may your career continue! 4 stars!
The true story of Burke and Hare, the Edinburgh body snatchers, here is
given a first comic turn. Both the leads and the support obviously
enjoyed making this - and the result is a refreshingly straight-forward
comedy with plenty of genuine laughs.
The film is simply a well-paced and well thought out comedy - everything for direction to script to the excellent costuming just works - and it is one of the better comedies of the year as it actually makes you laugh often and hard. The humour is dark enough to work, and all involved deliver it very well indeed.
We enjoyed this one a lot, it's got the right mix of silliness with a little horror that Simon Pegg does well, and all in this, this is just good straight-up entertainment with a huge galaxy of British comedians on display. Good stuff indeed.
While there was another movie with a similar theme, that I watched last
year, I thought this would be superior to that one. I mean this is made
by John Landis. So I was expecting quite a bit more from it, I have to
admit. It does not disappoint completely, it just feels like a bit too
light. There seems to be something missing. Character development is
straightforward, but still it's nothing grand. Something I came to
expect from a Landis movie.
Of course I might be nit-picking. The movie is not bad at all. It has quite a few comic moments (an intercourse scene that is just funny and could not be called arousing at all, works greatly, there are scenes of great comedy value besides that too), but there is still something missing to make it better. I would recommend a watch. I'd just say not to expect too much!
Edit: I just found out a month ago, that there is a very good chance, that there is another cut of this movie. A cut approved by Mr. Landis himself (which seems not to have been the case with this one) ... that would explain quite a lot ...
It is good to see a John Landis film back on the big screen but i feel
he missed a trick or two with this average effort. Firstly, for a film
set in Scotland i found it odd that the cast was almost entirely
English, betraying the roots of the story (and of the English cast only
Tom Wilkinson ,a splendid actor, managed to give a good approximation
of a Scots accent).
This film felt a bit of a homage to the Hammer films, a point made when a certain Hammer Icon makes a cameo appearance (i won't name the individual as i don't want to add a spoiler). I am guessing Landis is a Hammer fan and to be fair to him the sets and locations work quite well, giving Edinburgh a spooky feel to it. Both Pegg and Serkis are OK in the lead roles and do their best to sound Irish. It was also good to see Jenny Agutter make a brief appearance too, especially as she is invariably remembered for appearing in Landis's American Werewolf in London nearly 30 years ago...a nice touch by the director. In fact there seems to be quite a lot of casting British film and TV icons in this film (Ronnie Corbett being another) so i'm guessing that maybe Simon Pegg or Andy Serkis only agreed to do it if certain British childhood icons of theirs were also given parts.
To be honest the Burke and Hare story has been better done before but this film puts a comedic twist on it that doesn't always work. The bad language feels unnecessary for a start and the gore isn't as bad as i thought (certainly not on the levels of the Hostel or Saw films...and not even as graphic as the Final Destination franchise). There are some genuine laughs to be had but usually when Pegg and Serkis are on the screen. The story itself also swings back and forth between gruesome and the unexpected romantic angles that may have been intended to show Burke and Hare as committing their crimes for something other than just greed.
Basically this is a reasonably graphic horror story with heart and morality that has some good laughs but falls flat in a few areas. The cast give it their best shot and whilst it has an old fashioned feel to it in many ways, it is the unnecessary post-modern touches, the inconsistent rate at which the comedy comes and the rather odd casting that jarred me. However do keep an eye out for the odd cameo appearance from some famous actors and comedians.
Burke and Hare is a story of two men in Scotland in the late XIX
century barely making a dime when an opportunity comes along to earn
hard cash by killing people and selling their bodies to the benefit of
This movie may seem morally rotten at its core making a comedy out of murder, but it succeeds at it while quite a lot of comedies with far less harmful plots don't, not to mention that some of the most popular TV shows of today make it fit right in. John Landis comedies much in common with ZAZ productions and sometimes are almost live action cartoons. The title characters are shown as flawed people in a desperate situation which they think justifies their actions - we don't laugh with them, only at them. And that's intentional.
John Landis came back with a surprisingly decent feature. It's as if the MTV-style cinema revolution has passed him by (the one that hit the new Sherlock Holmes square in the face). No camera gymnastics, no forced sensual assault, all the action and physical comedy happens in frame. Burke and Hare is his first 2.35:1 feature and it shows - the frame at first appears a little too wide, like if the characters were taken from a 16:9 movie and arranged accordingly. By the way, "highly entertaining", "very funny" and "packed with the cream of British talent" - those bits on the poster aren't far from the truth.
The amazing Simon Pegg in this historical comedy based on the real life
murderers Burke and Hare. Very funny all the way through, witty and
with a star-studded cast of the English screen. Have wanted to see this
since it was in the cinema and I can't believe it's taken me this long
- well worth the wait! Some cringeworthy gross bits, but an all round a
romp of a good film. So many laughs. Some at the expense of the
Reminiscent of Plunket and Macleane with dark bawdy humour and little colour, period pieces with lots of physical humour and style in keeping with how the times would have been, not too showy and "hollywood." Pegg and Serkis were brilliant together and Jessica Hynes is always a comedy genius. British film at it's best.
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