Shan Khan’s full-length feature directorial debut, Honour, makes its way over from the UK with an early July US release date. The film, a thriller, revolves around a Muslim family that hires a bounty hunter, played by Paddy Considine, to track down their missing young adult daughter. However, there’s considerably more at play.
The film begins with the simple quote, “Life is nothing without honour,” setting the tone for what the film is really about- the practice of honor killings. To quote Wikipedia, “an honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community.” In the case of Honour, a British-Pakistani family feels that their daughter, Mona (Aiysha Hart), has dishonored them by dating a Punjabi man. That particular social issue sets the stage for multiple characters from different backgrounds to put their own interpretation of honor on display. This includes her mother, her two brothers (one a police officer), and the bounty hunter they hire to track her down (Considine). It’s the cultural differences that gives the film its teeth. And to be blunt, the film does a very good job of educating about honor killings, a practice I knew nothing about before watching Khan’s debut.
The film has a bit of an identity crisis, trying at various times to be a taut thriller, a revenge film, a film about redemption, and a social statement. Any one of those themes would have been great to explore more in-depth. However, the social statement takes center stage. It’s certainly commendable that Honour stays on-target about honor killings, but it saps the other sub-plots of their potency, making them feel tacked on and unearned.
Honour is significant for some clever trickery within the script, both with the film’s chronology and some nice twists. Additionally, the cast turns in several great performances. Specifically, Harvey Virdi is tremendous as the obligation-bound mother, Aiysha Hart brings the daughter’s plight to life, and Considine is as good as ever. Since this is pertaining to the US release where potential audiences will recognize Considine, it’s worth noting that this is not a film driven by Considine. He’s more of a narrative device, used to move the plot forward. He also works very well as the foil to Kasim (Faraz Ayub), the policeman/brother, with Considine a reformed former member of the Aryan Brotherhood, seeking redemption for his soul.
Overall, Honour is a fine debut that could use either a little bit of polish or a great deal longer runtime to explore its various themes.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars