Love, Honour and Obey


Dir: Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis
Star: Jonny Lee Miller, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Sean Pertwee

Another in the set of quirky British gangster movies, instigated by Lock, Stock, this centres on Jonny (Miller), who begs his way into the North London gang ran by Ray (Winstone), the uncle of his friend Jude (Law: yep, most of the characters have the same name as the actors playing them). However, he grows disenchanted with the mobster lifestyle, when it finds out that it revolves more around karaoke and fruit machines than running gun-battles, and he probably had more excitement in his previous job as a couries. He steals a load of cocaine belonging to another gang, triggering a breakdown in the normally-peaceful relations between the two outfits. This cascades downhill, as a result of Jonny's reckless abandon and ongoing refusal to return the coke to its previous owner, until Jude finally has to make a decision, choosing between his friend and his family.

It's a curious mix of comedy and violence. There are moments where the gangsters on both sides come across as incompetent, almost at the slapstick level. The most obvious example is where they pull a jewel robbery, dressed as unconvincing Arabs and all sporting erections under their robes, thanks to an ill-advised mass consumption of Viagra. Then, it'll slip into a scene where two members are kidnapped by their rivals and tortured, which is unpleasant to watch, as much psychologically as anything else. Add in scenes that start in the middle and stop with equal casualness, and this could easily collapse into an utter mess. That it doesn't do so, says a good bit about the skills of Anciano and Burdis - more particularly as writers, as everything meshes nicely. Winstone is also his usual reliable self, playing a great big teddy-bear of a gangster; yet you forget how he reached that position at your peril, and Pertwee may be even scarier. Made in 2000, this is a thoroughly-entertaining throwback, to a genre which is now largely dead through imitation.

B
[October 2008]


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