Running Time: 104 mins. Rating: x Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Shan Khan
Distributor: Paladin/108 Media
Cast: Aiysha Hart, Paddy Considine, Faraz Ayub, Shubham Saraf, Harvey Virdi, Nikesh Patel
When Terry Leonard made the 1987 action thriller DEATH BEFORE DISHOUR, he was setting the stage for one Gunnery Sgt. Burns to rescue Marines taken hostage in the Middle East. These Marines believe that nothing is worse than dishonor, meaning that they themselves would rather die than suffer a fate worse than death. It’s bizarre to think, however, that there are thousands of families that would rather kill what they consider their wayward daughters than allow themselves to be criticized by neighbors or feel humiliated in their own religious beliefs. In fact, though 5,000 Islamic killings of this nature are recorded annually, it’s believed that the figure is closer to 20,000 per year.
HONOUR takes us into an Islamic family but is concerned more with making a thriller than examining this faith-based phenomenon. This is in itself not a bad idea, but writer-director Shan Khan avoids a one-thing-leads-to-another chronology in favor of a circularity that does nothing to further the plot and serves only to confuse the audience. The story is book-ended by a physical fight on a train between two white-power types and a Pakistani-British family, but since we don’t know that the couple will show up again at the conclusion, we wonder what this introduction has to do with the story. The actual killing is repeated, a redundancy that is simply not necessary as we are already privy to the disaster that occurs within one family that holds the bizarre notion that a daughter who dishonors her parents and brothers (in this case through pre-marital sex with a young man from the Punjab region who may even be Muslim like them), deserves to be killed by her own mother and brothers.
Shan Khan, whose brief resume includes acting and writing some tv and directing one award-nominated short, gives us his first feature film, one which centers on Mona (Aiysha Hart), a Pakistani-British subject who works as a real estate agent and who has a Punjabi boyfriend, Tanvir (Nikesh Patel), who has made her pregnant—though he tells her that they are unable to marry because he had been promised at the age the age of three. When her mother (Harvey Virdi) tells her that without honor, a life is not worth living, the stage is set for mom and the young woman’s policeman brother Kasim (Faraz Ayub), to strangle her and bury her in the countryside, though Kasim’s younger brother Adel (Shubham Saraf) is not too pleased with the plan but follows along.
When Mona escapes, the family hires a bounty hunter (Paddy Considine) to track her down, which is easy enough since she lacks the foresight or the money to get well out of town. Almost predictably, when the bounty hunter finds her, the two bond, perhaps not so strange when you consider that the man picked up a dose of regret and wants this to be his last job.
As though the confused and unnecessarily non-linear plot were not enough to bring discredit on what could have been both an entertaining and enlightening film, the accents, hardly the King’s English, whether spoken by the Pakistanis or the white Brits, are difficult to understand.
HONOUR was shot on the Isle of Man and in Glasgow, and is punctuated by a percussive score. While well acted by the ensemble, special credit must be given to the mother, played by Harvey Virdi as a sinister, evil person—and what could be more evil than a mother who both plots and takes part in the execution of her own daughter?
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