Director: Shan Khan
Major Players: Paddy Considine, Aiysha Hart
Out of five? 3.5
Shan Khan’s choice of subject for his first feature as writer/director is bound to get him attention. Honour killings. And, while it’s not an attempt to create media interest in him personally, it’s most certainly designed to put the subject matter in the spotlight and deserves credit for that. But Khan’s approach as a film maker isn’t without interest in its own right.
As far as her family is concerned, Mona’s (Aiysha Hart) attempt to run away with her boyfriend has brought dishonour on them and her dead father. Their attempted honour killing goes wrong so, with Mona now on the run, they employ a bounty hunter (Paddy Considine) to track her down and maintain their standing in the community.
Which, despite its subject matter, sounds like a run-of-the-mill chase movie. And, up to a point, it is but it’s the way that Khan chooses to tell the story that makes it interesting – for the first half of the film, at least. Instead of opting for a straightforward, chronological approach, it’s a mixture of flashbacks and flash forwards, taking Aiysha’s arrival home after her failed attempt to run away as the starting point. Peeling away the events leading up to that moment, and the shocking attempt on her life, this part of the story comes full circle by the middle of the film. Where to now? It’s at this point that Khan deserts the style that makes the first 50 minutes so gripping and reverts to something more conventional, presumably to build up the tension towards the climax. Yet it’s the first half with its more complex structure that grabs the audience and holds its attention.
But while the story has some power, mainly because of its subject matter, the film’s characters aren’t so well drawn. Paddy Considine is given the best opportunity to create a rounded character: his nameless bounty hunter has a backstory, that of a former National Front member. And while he’s left that behind him, he still has an ill-disguised contempt for the people who are paying him to do their dirty work. This is, it turns out, his last job – the only thing approaching a cliché in the film – and we all know what happens in the movies to cops/villains/whoever on their last job.
Apart from that, the other characters are closer to two-dimensional. Harvey Virdi looks the part as Mona’s mother, the prime mover behind the attempt to kill her daughter, but simply isn’t given enough to do other than be chilling. And, although her accomplice and eldest son Kasim (Faraz Ayub) has a duplicitous approach to honour, upholding law and order as a policeman yet doing something entirely different away from his job, his character isn’t sufficiently developed to make the most of this interesting and ironic twist.
Nonetheless, Honour is courageous and thought-provoking. Google ‘honour killing’ and you’ll get over 1.5 million results, including a Wikipedia page and an entire section on the BBC’s website ethics guide. You could be forgiven for thinking the subject is high profile enough, but the film indicates something different. And while it’s only getting a cinematic release, its availability online and DVD later this month should hopefully bring it to the attention of a wider audience.
Honour goes on limited release around the UK from Friday, 8 April. It is available for digital download on Friday, 18 April and the DVD is released on Monday, 28 April.