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Film Review: Love, Honour and Obey

The promotional bumf tells us that this British gangster flick is the new Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but in reality, it's one of those films that doesn't know what it wants to be. Written and directed by Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis - who also gave the world the dismal Final Cut - this movie features sudden and unconvincing jumps from long periods of (admittedly toilet) humour to dark and disturbing violence, which tends to undermine the narrative of the film, such as it is.

Love, Honour & ObeyRay Creed (Ray Winstone - most of the actors share first names with their characters) is the head honcho of the biggest gang in North London. His favourite nephew Jude (Law) introduces him to a possible new recruit Jonny (Lee Miller) who is desperate to leave his mundane job to pursue a glamorous life of crime. Jonny succeeds in wheedling his way into Ray's firm, before his pyschopathic behaviour escalates the rivalry with Sean Pertwee's South London crew into explosive violence, and things start to go a bit Pete Tong.

Despite the big name stars and the promising, if simple, central premise, Love, Honour and Obey fails in several areas. The dialogue, which is so vital in this sort of film, is not up to scratch. It contains no real wit or menace and instead relies on obvious banalities and the same old phrases. If Tarantino was criticised for flogging "nigger" to death, see how many times you can count "mug" or "monkey" in this film.

Personally, I love puerile humour, but when it becomes the backbone of a movie, you know something's gone wrong. As I was leaving the cinema I realised the that the comedy in this film had made the preceding trailer for 'Kevin and Perry Go Large' look like a glimpse of sophisticated social satire. All the laughs in Love, Honour and Obey centre exclusively around farting, erections, strap-on dildos, blow-up dolls and sexual dysfunction. The impotence of one of Ray's henchmen starts off as an entertaining sub-plot, but develops into the main story-line, before the emphasis abruptly shifts back to the gang war.

This ragged style of story telling is not helped by the unnecessary flicking between scenes and the constant renditions of gangster karaoke, the purpose of which eluded me. It's a real pity, because the top notch British cast deserve better material to work with. Ray Winston and Kathy Burke, who worked together in Nil By Mouth, turn in strong performances, but the undoubted talents of Law and Lee Miller are under-used.

Looking on the bright side, there are still several moments which make going to this film worthwhile. The Viagra-fuelled diamond heist is a masterpiece of schoolboy humour, the Fat Alan character provides some scenes of cruel hilarity and some of the gags are genuinely funny, if heavily outnumbered by the ones which will only appeal to your 12 year old brother. And for any hot-blooded male, the sight of Denise van Outen fellating a cucumber will ensure it was money well spent. If it's classy British gangster action you want though, get down to Xtravision and rent 'Lock, Stock...' or 'The Long Good Friday'.

Stephen Murphy


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