No Job Too Small. No Body Too Big. No Questions Asked.
Running Time: 91 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: United Kingdom
Burke and Hare is a serial-killer-com that sees John Landis’ first return to the big screen in over a decade. Some see this as a welcome homecoming, however I was three years old when he last made a decent film.
The story follows William Burke (Pegg) and William Hare (Serkis), two Irish immigrants in Edinburgh who are struggling for money until their lodger dies and they find out they can sell his body to the local universities to be used in medical research. As they search for more bodies to keep up their income the duo take to stalking the streets of Edinburgh randomly murdering the locals. Meanwhile, Burke falls in love with prossie-turned-actress Ginny (Fisher) and Hare finds that this murdering lark is a real turn on to his wife (King).
The comedy is a little hit and miss and it is chucklesome but never gets into belly laugh territory. It is all done in a smug way that’s a little annoying and I spent more time staring at Andy Serkis’ face wondering what made it so interesting than having a good laugh. However, Landis, Pegg and Serkis do a good job to turn two serial killers into men you can occasionally laugh at and with and even be empathetic towards.
An interesting aspect of Burke and Hare are the accents. Out of all the speaking roles, only two are actual Scottish people – well done David Hayman and Pollyanna McIntosh, out of over five million Scots, you made the cut. Brave men and women from all over England don Scots accents, Pegg (a little faltering) and Serkis (nearly pitch perfect) put on Northern Irish accents, Australian Isla Fisher mistakenly tries to go tartan and there’s even a Swede playing a Frenchman (although, granted, he moved to England when he was a one year old – thank you IMDB). This is a very dangerous tactic as it could have come off sounding like an ameturish mess or ‘doing a Russell Crowe’ as it’s known in the business. Overall, though, the accents stand up okay and to the untrained ear (or the American ear) it all sounds pretty authentic and non-theatrical.
It's Got: Mild laughs, the good, bad and ugly of accents, a lot of cameos
It Needs: More belly laughs, more Scottish people, better casting
Alternatives:Burke and Hare (1972), Monty Python's The Holy Grail, Plunkett and Macleane
John Landis’ big screen comeback is a strange one. Mixing serial killing, comedy and a glut of actors not speaking in their natural accents are risks that don’t quite pay off.