Burke And Hare

Burke And Hare


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Murder may lie at the heart of Burke And Hare, the tale of the infamous 1820s duo who made a killing in the cadaver business in Edinburgh - but unfortunately the film's chief victims are not those characters who end up on the medical slab, but Scottish accents and humour. For while the film may be intended as a blackly comic exploration of the Irish serial killers' exploits, its jokes are so old and tired, they feel as though they may well have been kicking around since the period in which the film is set.

Simon Pegg is Burke and Andy Serkis - who stepped into the breach when David Tennant had to drop out (lucky boy) - plays Hare. Portrayed here as a couple of likely lads, they spend their lives trying to think of new schemes to make a bit of cash. Meanwhile, in the more rarefied atmosphere of the city's medical schools a battle is afoot between two surgeons - the old-school Dr Monroe (Tim Curry) and the more progressive Dr Knox (Tom Wilkinson). When Monroe steals a march on Knox and manages to commandeer all the corpses fresh from the city's noose, Knox finds himself relying on the maggot-riddled bodies brought to him by gravediggers. But with the city's militia (led by Ronnie Corbett, easily the best thing about the film, not least because his accent is genuine) patrolling the graveyards, even that source of medicinal meat is running dry.

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When Burke and Hare find themselves forced to dispose of a body after one of the tenants at the home they share with Lucky Hare (Jessica Hynes) dies of natural causes, they are amazed to discover it's worth money to Dr Knox - and the good doctor is happy to take more, no questions asked. It isn't long before the hapless pair see a chance to forget their money woes forever and, if Burke is somewhat less keen at the prospect of murder than Hare, his desire to help new love interest Ginny (Isla Fisher) put on the first all-female version of Macbeth, is enough to give him an appetite for it. It seems the crimes are perfect, with the evidence quickly destroyed beneath a surgeon's hand... but little do they suspect Dr Knox is immortalising their victims in a bid to chart the anatomy of the human body.

There is definitely a strong story here to be told, but writers Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft (who have form in the lack-of-laughs department courtesy of St Trinians and St Trinians 2) aren't interested in the drama, viewing the project as a sort of ramshackle cinematic hatstand on which to hang a variety of limp jokes. The result is curiously flat in terms of dramatics, as each of the escapades - Grey Friar's Bobby in a graveyard, a virtually pointless scene in which Paul Whitehouse tumbles downstairs - play out more like a sketch than a scene in a cohesive drama. While much of the comedy might have garnered a few laughs as part of a Two Ronnies' skit back in the Seventies, here it feels dated, predictable and bland.

The accents are also a huge problem. While Pegg and Serkis just about get away with their cheeky Irish blarney, others are not so lucky. Bill Bailey - who pops up as a narrator figure near the beginning - makes a good stab at Scots, but Wilkinson and Rice give the brogue more than a flesh wound and Isla Fisher's accent, in particular, is on a tour of the entire British Isles. John Landis has made some decent films in his time, but here everything has gone gravely wrong.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2010
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Story of the infamous Edinburgh-based murderers.
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Director: John Landis

Writer: Piers Ashworth, Nick Moorcroft

Starring: Simon Pegg, Tim Curry, Isla Fisher, Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Georgia King, Hugh Bonneville, Jenny Agutter, Stephen Merchant, Bill Bailey, Jessica Hynes, David Schofield, Pollyanna McIntosh, Allan Corduner

Year: 2010

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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