A case study in why media spectacles rarely translate into convincing thrillers.
Honour, the 2014 British thriller and directorial debut of Shan Khan, tells the story of Anglo-Pakistani woman Mona (played by Aiysha Hart), who becomes the target of a family honor killing after backing out of an arranged marriage. When Mona threatens to flee abroad with her lover, her hyper-traditional family decides to take matters into their own hands. But when their murderous plot fails and Mona escapes, the family is forced to hire a white supremacist bounty hunter (played by Paddy Considine), to track Mona down.
It is important to contextualize this film in the UK, and understand its place amongst a rising number of honor killings, much publicized over the past five years. While the issue receives less coverage in the U.S., it is a subject that receives a tremendous amount of press in Britain, making Honour a very contemporary, “hot topic” film. Unfortunately, while honor killings are a serious global issue, the lack of extensive media coverage (and sensationalism) in the US can make the film’s moral urgency a bit hard to comprehend.
What is a much-discussed social issue in one country isn’t necessarily so in another; this lack of consciousness amongst the American public takes away from the initial emotional shock the film might enjoy over its audience. No matter how abhorrent honor killings might be to our sensibilities, for many Americans, the subject is still viewed as something that only happens “abroad.” We don’t hear enough about it in the press to generate the visceral reaction the film attempts to conjure in its scandalous delivery.
What remains then of the movie is an overly dramatic and complicated plot line, lacking in both originality and quality. Honour’s convoluted story, with its plethora of half-developed characters and sub-plots, only barely ties together in the film’s conclusion. It has the added idiosyncrasy of endlessly using flashbacks to push the narrative forward. The quality of dialogue ranges from “semi-convincing” to outright “contrived,” and the film’s weakest exchanges all seem to occur during its most poignant moments.
The performances throughout the film were all passable, with Mr. Considine and the elder brother (Faraz Ayub) offering the film’s best (though by no means exceptional) acting. To be fair, the material was hardly inspirational, let alone well written. Yet what is most abhorrent is Honour’s spectacularly indelicate treatment of a loaded subject, bringing the reality of honor killings down to the level of B-movie thrillers. The film does little to bring attention to these murders as a social issue, and only seems to contribute further to the media frenzy that surrounds the subject.
One could maybe forgive Honour if the movie was well executed, but it lacks even that attribute. Perhaps the film’s only saving grace is its fast pace, and that story moves quickly enough you aren’t left completely bored watching the film. Its aggressive pacing helps pass the time quickly, though it does little to mitigate the rest of the movie’s failings.