Written and Directed by Shan Khan.
Starring Paddy Considine, Aiysha Hart, Faraz Ayub, Shubham Saraf, Harvey Virdi and Nikesh Patel.
A story centered on a young woman is targeted by her family for an “honour killing” and the bounty hunter who takes the job.
Let’s take a cursory look at the headlines: UKIP retain their surging popularity, the British government investigates the so-called ‘Islamification’ of UK schools, and reports of intolerance and divide within the country are so seemingly commonplace that fears of racial conflict is never far from the public consciousness. Honour, the debut feature from writer-director Shan Khan, wants to be the film to address some of these issues, and perhaps straighten the stories so often bent by an often irresponsible media; and yet it can’t possibly do that.
The problem with Khan’s film is not that it tries and so woefully fails to tackle such concerns, but that it presumes it can investigate them head-on within the confines of a bland urban thriller, where characters come complete without backstory or clear motivation. It’s a nuance-free attempt to make a movie out of a sensationalist news story – a Pakistani family living in Britain arrange the honour killing of one of their own, successful young estate agent Mona (Aiysha Hart), who’s become pregnant out of wedlock – and an unforgivably boring one at that.
Sororicidal primary villain Kasim (Faraz Ayub), who’s also a policeman (plot twist!), is a kind of less intimidating Terminator, while his sidekick brother Adel (Shubham Saraf) is a conflicted side-character that isn’t sure whether he’s OK with killing Mona or not (double plot twist!). Their mother (Harvey Virdi), meanwhile, skulking in the shadows of the family home, is just as cardboard cutout in her need to dispose of her own daughter, for whom we’d surely have more sympathy if Mona’s story didn’t so obviously serve as a way of simply kickstarting the plot.
Thematically, Honour is more heavy-footed and muddy still. The film would have benefitted if Khan didn’t try to up the intrigue via a needlessly cluttered narrative: Honour starts at the end, cuts back to somewhere around the midway point, then flashes back further still, before getting back on track and introducing us to Paddy Considine’s nameless bounty hunter, the only one character who Khan appears remotely interested in fleshing out.
Considine’s assassin, however, as a former neo-Nazi assigned to track down Mona, is really the wrong character to develop (are we meant to empathise with the hitmen, or the families and victims who are affected by honour killings?). But still Khan gives Considine all the best scenes, and the actor ensures they’re the few truthful and engaging ones – he’s almost as frightening here as he was in Dead Man’s Shoes, as deceptively ‘normal’ as he was in My Summer of Love, as emotionally eruptive as he was in In America.
Why focus on Considine, a mere supporting character in Honour, in this review? It’s because his performance is – competent photography from David Higgs aside – the only thing worth talking about. Considine is one of Britain’s best living actors, and that he has to stoop this low to find a platform to prove it is something of a travesty. The actor has been Britain’s De Niro, and he’s no less primed in Honour, every atom of his being vibrating with that customary anger, making mincemeat of a role seriously lacking in substance on the page.
There’s a scene in which Considine’s killer interrupts Kasim and his mother speaking in Urdu, revealing for the first time his knowledge of their tongue. “Do you speak our language?” mother asks. “I don’t SPEAK it”, replies the hitman, with all the hatred of a habitual racist, searing with all the intensity of a great Considine performance. But Khan’s film hasn’t earned such a performance, nor the extra star Honour gains as a result of the actor’s involvement. The film is weak, unnecessarily muddled, and about as politically astute as a red top newspaper – it’s another underwhelming product from a British cinema that, at times like this, seems painfully rudderless.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★
Brogan Morris – Lover of film, writer of words, pretentious beyond belief. Thinks Scorsese and Kubrick are the kings of cinema, but PT Anderson and David Fincher are the young princes. Follow Brogan on Twitter if you can take shameless self-promotion.