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3 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Love, Honour and Obey
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by Andrew Howe

"A simple song, but played with style."
3 stars

Scriptwriters expend considerable time and effort crafting memorable conclusions (though not as often as I would like), but precious few feel the need to lavish the same degree of attention on their beginnings. Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis, authors of the low budget British gangster flick Love, Honour and Obey, are a notable exception - the opening scene whets the appetite like a good Martini, and if the rest of the film doesn't live up to its early promise it's simply the price of expending your ammunition in a single blaze of glory.

OK, so it's actually the second scene I'm talking about, but it's close enough. And what is this marvellous opening of which I speak? Well, it's nothing more than every major character in the film (these being characters to whom we have not yet been introduced, I might add), taking turns at belting out a karaoke version of Tony Christie's Avenues and Alleyways. It might not sound like much, but it's an exuberant, hugely enjoyable romp that puts spending a little more time with these jolly souls at the top of your list of things to do, and sets the tone for most of what is to follow.

The plot centres on a gang of small-time British criminals, led by Ray (Ray Winstone, who’s played so many lowlifes that he probably gets braced by security every time he enters a bank), an ageing outlaw who’ll do anything for an easy life. His nephew and right-hand man, Jude (Jude Law), convinces him to accept Jonny (Jonny Lee Miller) into the fold, which proves a major lapse in judgement, since Jonny decides to liven things up by starting a war with a rival gang led by “South London” (who, in keeping with the scriptwriters’ bizarre conceit, we can safely assume was christened “Sean”, since he’s played by Sean Pertwee).

It’s a top-notch ensemble, with special mention going to Miller (whose role as Sick Boy in Trainspotting didn’t lead to the level of success enjoyed by co-stars Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle) – he’s got the likeable-thug routine down pat, and Jonny’s devil-may-care attitude to the criminal life is exactly what you might expect from someone who’s seen one too many Hollywood gangster flicks. Rhys Ifans (the cigarette-smoking bar owner from The Replacements), is also strangely likeable as a bumbling criminal who becomes the focus of Johnny’s persecution, and his jittery performance suggests that he should be high on the recruitment list when Guy Ritchie returns to the seedy streets of Mother England.

The scriptwriters walk the fine line between comedy and drama with varying degrees of success. A scene in which “Fat Alan” invites Johnny to try and stab him is hilarious, and an ongoing subplot concerning a gang member’s quest for an erection has its moments. Other sequences are less successful (a jewellery heist slides into farce), and the occasional doses of hard-edged violence (threatened or actual) do not sit well with the relatively light-hearted scenes which precede them (this is especially true of the finale which, while you won’t be forgetting it in a hurry, achieves the effect through a truly shocking reversal of form).

The script would have benefited from a little judicious pruning (you get the impression that the scriptwriters threw everything they could think of into the mix without stopping to consider whether each individual scene benefited the film’s overall impact), but the film’s perverse sense of humour, combined with a well-chosen cast and the occasional left-field drive (Johnny gabbing to the camera while decked out in a clown suit, and more karaoke), make for an entertaining, if not entirely successful, ride.

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originally posted: 09/24/01 17:29:10
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User Comments

8/30/03 Matt Fabulous film, funny as hell great cast 5 stars
8/27/03 Verra Jones Brilliant , Irreverent, If you dont like it youre a mug. 5 stars
7/07/03 francis One scene was ridiculous - the rest,mildly amusing. Should extreme violence be funny? 3 stars
4/23/03 (<A HREF=''>Y2Mckay</A>) Another generic Brit gangster flick, but decent. Pertwee is great as usual. 4 stars
9/27/01 Xerox Pretty terrible film.I like LSTSM and Snatch but what to the serious British crime films. 2 stars
2/28/01 mouse Outstanding. Funny and well improvised by cast. Pertwee singing fireball XL5 is just surrea 5 stars
2/12/01 Richard Wright Another poor cash-in on Lock Stock, how I wish the bandwagon would stop rolling. Please.. 2 stars
1/19/01 David Burnett I think you are all mad, this is an utter breath of fresh air and originality for the UK. 5 stars
11/29/00 Ben Funny, bright, and a refreshing change from other films of this ilke. 4 stars
10/11/00 Klute I thought this was pretty off the wall. Bizarrely funny, but not fantastic. 4 stars
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  09-Feb-2001 (R)


  05-Oct-2000 (MA)

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