J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Honour: It Happens in London

In her bestseller Londonistan, British journalist Melanie Phillips argues Britain’s pluralistic liberal values are steadily eroding due to the rise of Islamist ideology from within. At one point, Mona’s brother makes a similar point, but he brazenly considers himself part of the process. Kasim happens to be a police officer, who is determined to murder his sister out of a perverse sense of family duty in Shan Khan’s simply but evocatively titled Honour (trailer here), which launches today on VOD.

Mona scandalized her Muslim Pakistani family by pursuing romance with a Punjabi Hindu colleague. For that, she must die. However, she proves to be unexpectedly elusive for the severe Kasim and his somewhat reluctant younger brother, Adel, so they enlist a specialist. Ever since his release from prison, the unnamed bounty hunter has carved out a niche for himself, based on referrals from the imam he served time with. Just how the heavily tattooed white supremacist formed an alliance with the devout Muslim remains unspoken, but one can easily assume they bonded over targets of mutual hate.

Nevertheless, the nameless thug-for-hire is starting to develop a conscience, especially after witnessing the savage treatment of his last highly pregnant target. It will be ironic if the former Aryan gang member teaches Mona’s family a lesson in real honor, but in all honesty, Kasim and his cold-blooded mother set the bar awfully low.

As usual, Paddy Considine is totally money-in-the-bank as the bounty hunter. It is a gritty punch-to-the-gut portrayal of soul-sickness and redemption, yet it is not really his movie. Instead, Atlantis co-star Aiysha Hart shoulders a disproportionate share of the film’s load, acquitting herself rather well. In fact, she seems to get stronger as the film progresses, vividly expressing understandable feelings of fear, pain, and betrayal. While the ad-hoc alliance between her and Considine’s grim brooder might strike some viewers as a bit too pat, their rapport helps considerably to sell it on-screen.

Hard to pigeon-hole, Honour rather effectively straddles the border between thrillers and social issue dramas. Arguably, Khan’s out-of-sequence temporal narrative gets a little too cute for its own good, but it does accentuate the suspense at several key junctures. More importantly, he masterfully maintains the tension, conveying a visceral sense of Mona’s bereft alienation.

Honour is not pitch-perfect, but it certainly pulls the audience in and keeps us hooked. It is also quite a bold film. Keep in mind, this all takes place in London (or rather a Glasgow doubling for London)—the financial capitol of Europe and beacon of freedom during two world wars—not some mountain hamlet in Afghanistan. Recommended as a film and as well a social critique, Honour is now available through VOD platforms, with a theatrical release to be announced sometime in the summer.

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