Stool Britannia


If nothing else, the British gangster movie (along with a couple of Oasis albums) epitomizes the demise of Tony Blair’s Cool Britannia campaign and the attendant spate of Union Jack-draped magazine covers. U.S. audiences have mostly been spared the parade of hipster mockney-thug backslaps (fame-stained Guy Ritchie notwithstanding), but it’s hard to imagine that any of them are worse than the superhumanly awful BBC bottom-feeder Love, Honour and Obey, which, paramount among its many faults, is not recognizably a film. Instead, it’s an interminable series of actively unpleasant comedy routines and karaoke sing-alongs, in which British actors (a mix of has-beens and should-know-betters) play characters with the same names as themselves. This is a dumb in-joke or a means of calling attention to the chummy, larky aspect of the endeavor, thus abnegating responsibility for the ensuing atrocity; either way, it’s emphatically irritating. Jude (Law) introduces his best friend, Jonny (Lee Miller), to his tough-guy uncle Ray (Winstone), who’s about to marry soap-opera tart Sadie (Frost). Jonny’s loose-cannon behavior soon sparks a gang war and mayhem at the wedding. The pacing is nonexistent, the look beyond cruddy (every shot is hideously framed; many are barely in focus), and the humor sub-Benny Hill. The most belabored set piece involves a collective Viagra mishap (while the boys are dressed for some reason as Arab sheiks!). Love, Honour and Obey might be termed an indulgent exercise, except the cast doesn’t seem to be having fun. Working without a script (or, presumably, the permission of their agents), the actors reduce improv to three simple steps: Swear, mug, repeat until blue in the face.

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