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Say Your Prayers
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Harry Michell
prd Helen Simmons
scr Harry Michell, Jamie Fraser
with Harry Melling, Tom Brooke, Derek Jacobi, Roger Allam, Anna Maxwell Martin, Vinette Robinson, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Matthew Steer, George Potts, Max Upton, Will Barton, Elliot Hallidu
release UK 28.Sep.20
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With a bone-dry sense of humour, this crime comedy maintains focus on two young protagonists whose tough past has left them damaged. For a film about hitmen, this is an unusually slow burn, bristling with small edges but none that are particularly momentous. Filmmaker Harry Michell tries to crank things up with a snaky plot and overwrought sound mix, which help to a degree. But there's not much too it.
Orphaned as babies, brothers Tim and Vic (Melling and Brooke) are sent to Ilkley by extremist priest Enoch (Jacobi), who raised them, to kill the prominent atheist writer Huxley (Allam). But things go wrong immediately, as Tim identifies the wrong man and Vic struggles to keep his temper under control. And now tough-as-nails Detective Brough (Maxwell Martin) is on their trail. So Enoch turns up to get them back on track. But Tim is having second thoughts about the mission, and he's also attracted to Imelda (Robinson), who's in town for the literary festival.
Michell gets into Tim's head with glimpses of his reluctance to do this kind of violent work, augmented by a choir of men loudly harmonising hymns in the background of various scenes. Through Tim's true-believer eyes, Father Enoch is becoming the true menace, and he freezes with fear when he discovers that Imelda knows Huxley. All of this plays out with a wry, offhanded attitude, as the rather thin plot moves quietly forward, underpinned by the feeling that something nasty is about to happen. It's an odd mix of moods that relies on goofy slapstick and some dark moodiness.
Melling finds some surprising sides to Tim that make him sympathetic, with complex reactions to what's happening, especially as he begins to question what he's been taught. Brooke's Vic is more clear-minded about his mission, but has more sensitivity than Jacobi's unsettling control-freak priest and Allam's blustering intellectual. Both veteran actors liven things up, as does Maxwell Martin as the too-intense cop. But Robinson never has much to do, and neither does Spencer-Longhurst as Brough's young sidekick.
This is apparently a story about a crisis of faith, and yet the script never digs very deeply into the topic. Huxley's anti-religious views are spoken with logical disdain, while the believers are simplistically depicted as violent fanatics. In between, Tim's wavering conscience doesn't really have much to do with his religious beliefs; it's more about his troubled childhood and the pressures of society. Which helps the story spiral into a pungent little sting.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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