Love, Honour and Obey

Made by a cast and crew almost identical to those of the little-seen "Final Cut," this second feature by writing-helming-producing duo Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis is marginally less self-indulgent and back-slapping but begs the same question evoked by so many recent Brit movies: Why? A larky, North London--set gangster yarn that's essentially a series of straight-faced comedy routines tacked together, "Love, Honour and Obey" looks destined for fast local playoff prior to a trip to the video morgue.

Made by a cast and crew almost identical to those of the little-seen “Final Cut,” this second feature by writing-helming-producing duo Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis is marginally less self-indulgent and back-slapping but begs the same question evoked by so many recent Brit movies: Why? A larky, North London–set gangster yarn that’s essentially a series of straight-faced comedy routines tacked together, “Love, Honour and Obey” looks destined for fast local playoff prior to a trip to the video morgue.

Rostered with members of Britannia’s new glitterati — Jude Law, Sadie Frost , Ray Winstone, Rhys Ifans, Jonny Lee Miller — and with Anciano and Burdis taking sizable onscreen roles as well, pic has the feel, as did “Final Cut,” of a home movie made by a group of friends for their own and fellow media-ites’ amusement. A small effort has been made this time to include audiences in on the joke, and occasionally (such as in the pub karaoke scenes) the movie does have an engaging sense of fun. But it’s a long hike between the water holes and, at almost two hours, pic is way, way too long.

Yarn is knitted together by the direct-to-camera reminiscences of Jonny (Lee Miller), dressed in a clown’s outfit, about how his boyhood buddy Jude (Law) intro’d him to his uncle, Ray Kreed (Winstone), “the biggest gangster in London.” Ray, who’s equally devoted to his soap-star wife, Sadie (Frost), and karaoke, agrees to take Jonny on but tells nephew Jude to keep an eye on him.

Jonny earns his stripes during a credit-card scam that goes awry. Later, however, he and Jude pull off a sideline coke theft that pits Ray’s North London boys against a South London gang led by Sean (Sean Pertwee) and his right-hand man, Mathew (Ifans).

Alongside the central story, told in short, sharp scenes separated by rapid fades, there’s a load of painfully unfunny comic shtick revolving round the sex lives of two bodyguards (Anciano, Burdis) and their partners (TV personality Denise Van Outen, Kathy Burke). And between that and the main plot hovers the even more dreary marital squabbling of the jealous Ray and trashy Sadie.

Humor is basically loutish “Carry On” in style, reaching its nadir in a sequence in which Ray and his pals don Arab robes and take some Viagra. (You can guess the rest.) Cast turn in patented performances from other movies, or in some cases — Frost, Burke, Van Outen, Anciano, Burdis — no performance at all. Only Lee Miller, as a borderline psychotic, appears to be trying. Tech credits are OK, and the soundtrack is plastered with busy pop songs.

Love, Honour and Obey

(U.K.)

Production: A UIP (U.K.) release of a BBC Films presentation of a Fugitive production. (International sales: The Sales Co., London.) Produced by Dominic Anciano, Ray Burdis. Executive producers, David M. Thompson, Jane Tranter, Jim Beach. Directed, written by Dominic Anciano, Ray Burdis. Camera (Deluxe color prints), John Ward; editor, Rachel Meyrick; music supervisor, John Beckett; production designer, Nick Burnell; costumes, Ali Brown; sound (Dolby SR), Jon Bird; associate producer, Sadie Frost; assistant director, Charles Rudgard; casting, Geraldine Geraghty. Reviewed at Plaza 1, London, Jan. 27, 2000. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: With: Sadie Frost, Ray Winstone, Jonny Lee Miller, Jude Law, Sean Pertwee, Kathy Burke, Denise Van Outen, Rhys Ifans, Dominic Anciano, Ray Burdis, John Beckett, Trevor H. Laird, William Scully, Perry Benson, Mark Burdis, Laila Morse.

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