Book Review – When the Serpent Bites by Nesly Clerge

blogger, blogging, book, book blogger, book blogging, book review, books, crime, prison, review, reviewing, reviews, thriller

I’ve been blogging since September 2011 and I’ve been on Instagram since December 2014. I don’t think it’s too big-headed to say that I’ve improved in both areas since then even if I’m still a bit shit at sticking to my schedules occasionally. In the last 7 years, I’ve managed to keep my online persona fairly secret and it’s only recently that people in my life started to find out about it. It kind of feels like I’m a superhero and everyone has suddenly seen through my secret identity. It’s weird to have it out there even though it’s still only a select group of people who know. It’s one thing to write for strangers (or nobody) but the idea of someone I see on a daily basis reading it… still can’t deal with that. I only bring this up because one of my work friends was so impressed with my Instagram following that she started talking about how much money I could make. I was super quick to shoot her down on this idea because I’m still a small fish in a fucking huge pond. Although, after spending years trying but never quite succeeding as much as I wanted to, I can’t deny that things are starting to change for the better. In the last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be approached by authors to get involved in marketing their books. You’ll be aware that earlier this month I was involved in the cover reveal of the upcoming Above the Stars book and I was also sent an advanced copy of Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino to share on Instagram. I realise that I still have some way to go before the big gun publishers would even think about approaching me but, as someone who is interested in getting into the marketing world, this is a fairly big deal. In keeping with this, two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to review the 2015 debut novel of writer Nesly Clerge. I said yes, because I’m not really in a position to turn these chances down, but I wasn’t sure this novel was going to be for me.

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

books, classic, crime, fucking creepy, fucking scary, murder, mystery, reviews

I’m supposed to be reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead at the moment. I started in October and got about halfway before I decided it was time to read some more appropriate reading for the scariest month of the year. It might not be the first choice for a Halloween read but I decided it was about time to reread And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I always find it a bit weird to reread a crime novel because it has a completely different feel when you know whodunit. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to know because you start to pick up on things that you didn’t the first time. I guess a more pedantic person might try and pick apart the plot knowing what you know but, for me, I think it’s just worth reading a classic Agatha Christie novel whenever you can. She is still the Queen of Crime for good reason. Something that I find worth celebrating as we reach the 100th anniversary of the publication of her first novel. I’ve tried to read contemporary crime fiction but, to be honest, I’m fucking bored of psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators and super dark themes. Every other week we’re being introduced to ‘the new Gone Girl‘ which would be fine if I’d actually felt that Gone Girl was actually worth finishing. I found it tired and predictable. It was obvious we were being played with but it wasn’t a good enough book for me to let myself be taken along for the ride. These days, it always seems like crime writers are just trying to one-up the last big sensation and it’s getting too out of control. Girl on the Train was not worth my time and every book I’ve read that tried to build off that was abandoned early on. I know classic novels like Agatha Christie’s seem tame in comparison but they are based on well-crafted narratives and not cliched plots. If you call yourself a fan of thrillers and you haven’t read anything by her then you’re really doing this reading thing wrong.

What is the greatest crime thriller of all time? It’s a difficult question and one that will, undoubtedly, have different answers depending on who you ask. If you look at numbers alone then I’d say that And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie has to be in with a shot. It is, using estimates of all time sales, one of the greatest selling books of all time and most probably the number 1 selling mystery novel. It’s certainly one of my top Christie novels trumped only by The Murder of Roger Ackroyd simply because I adore that novel’s unprecedented twist ending. Although, I have to agree that And Then There Were None is one of the best crafted mystery novels ever written with an ending that will keep first time readers guessing until the end. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

And Then There Were None brings together a group of 10 strangers on an isolated island and kills them off one by one. Each character is drawn to the island by a mysterious letter but, when they become stranded due to stormy weather, they are left fearing for their life when it becomes clear that one of their number has set them up for their murderous games based around a well-known nursery rhyme. Each guest is accused of committing their own murder on a dark stormy night and, moments later, the first of their party is found dead. With no sign of anyone else on the island, they have no option but to suspect each other. As their numbers dwindle the tension increases and it becomes harder to work out who can be trusted.

And Then There Were None is a deceptively simple novel from the outside. It is very self-contained with the list of characters sticking to the main 10 and the narrative taking place on the island over the space of a few days. There isn’t a great deal of action beyond a few searches of the house and there is a lot of sitting around waiting for stuff to happen. However, there is so much more to this novel. Christie’s narrative is so well-crafted that it will, genuinely, leave readers guessing who the killer is up until the last minute. You’ll forever be trying to second-guess everything and read too much into the little details. It’s a fantastically fun novel to try and unravel. It’s also incredibly tense and, in it’s own way, scary novel. Yes, it’s lost something over the years as we get used to authors taking horror further and further but this novel has enough atmosphere to keep you unnerved.

This mostly comes down to the sense of claustrophobia you get. Just as the guests on the island are stuck with nowhere to go as the weather rages outside, the reader is kept very insular. This is a novel that doesn’t venture further than it needs to. We barely get a glimpse of anything beyond the walls of the house and very little happens between the murders. Everyone is just sitting and waiting for the next strike and trying to figure out which of the party could be capable of such awful crimes. It has a pretty big body count in the end but And Then There Were None could hardly be described as bloody. Each death is described in a suitable manner for the period in which is was published. It all feels very British as the murder is swept under the carpet to keep the true horrors up to the imagination of the reader.

And Then There Were None is a very clever novel and is classic Agatha Christie. I don’t read her novels as much as I should anymore. Every time I do I get that familiar sense of joy and admiration. She remains one of the most loved mystery writers for a good reason and this novel is probably the perfect example of why. It can be a bit of mind fuck working out where to start with Christie. You’re tempted to start with a Miss Marple or Poirot story but that begs the question of where to start. Do you try and get them in the right order or do you just go with the most popular ones? I’m sure there are people out there on the internet who have found the perfect order but I can’t say that I’m clever enough to have worked it out. If anyone asked me where to start then I, at least for the time being, would probably recommend this one. It exists as it’s own novel but is such a Christie trademark. It’s pretty perfect… no matter how many times you read it.

TBT – The Parole Officer (2001)

British, comedy, crime, cringe, films, fucking awful, fucking ridiculous, fucking stupid, meh, Steve Coogan, TBT

When you’re the creator of an iconic character it can be super difficult to get yourself out from under its shadow. Steve Coogan has tried to move away from just being the guy who plays Alan Partridge but nothing else has ever really stuck. Let’s be honest, he’s appeared in some utter shite over the years and it’s not been pretty. In more recent years he has made the move that most comedy performers over a certain age try and picked more serious roles. Gone straight if you will. It was a different story back in 2001 when he co-wrote and starred in his own British comedy crime caper. For some reason, when The Parole Officer came out it was constantly being compared to the Ealing crime comedies from the 1950s and 1960s. I guess there were just no real expectations for British comedies in the early 2000s so anything that got made was deemed kind of successful. It was the same year that the Vinnie Jones comedy vehicle Mean Machine and a film about a hairdresser from Keighley starring Alan Rickman were released, after all. When the greatest British comedy to be released that year was Bridget Jones’ Diary then maybe I can see why people got so excited. Nowadays, Coogan seems pretty embarrassed to have ever made the film and, in 2015, stated that he doesn’t understand why anyone likes it. I’ve known a load of people who loved this film but, really, they aren’t the kind of people who I would ever seek advice from. On any subject matter. However, it’s been a really long time since I saw this film so, after I so harshly critiqued it during my Tuesday review this week, I decided it was time to see if it really was as bad as I remembered.

Alan Partridge claimed The Parole Officer was “unarguably the greatest film ever made”. We have to assume that he’s at least a little biased, of course, on account of it being his creator, Steve Coogan’s film, and, you know, cause he’s a fucking fictional character. Rewatching the film in 2017 I was struck by 2 things: number 1, Stannis Baratheon and Cersei Lannister are both pretending to be British police officers and, number 2, this is a fucking awful film. It’s weird to think of a time when Steve Coogan was having to try so fucking hard to make it in Hollywood but this film is proof of the murky depths he was once willing to sink to. It’s sad and more cringe inducing than anything Alan Partridge has done in his illustrious career. The major positive I have for it is, because it was made during a time when British comedies tended not to wander too far beyond the 90 minute mark, it’s short. I mean it still felt like I was watching it for a good few days but, in reality, I didn’t actually have to waste too much time on it.

The Parole Officer is not a fresh British comedy and, instead, uses a really tired situation but with additionally gross-out gags. It’s trying to do the same thing that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did so successfully just 3 years later with Shaun of the Dead but failing. With their Cornetto Trilogy, Wright and Pegg managed to repurpose the narratives of classic Hollywood genres for use in a UK landscape without it seeming too gimmicky. Here, Coogan and co-writer, Henry Normal, just lazily implant the premise of films like The Italian Job in the North of England. It just ends up being overly twee and nonsensical. It needed a more careful hand instead of just putting Coogan on a rollercoaster in Blackpool and calling it a day. It’s just infuriating to watch this film and know how much better it could have been. Instead, the narrative is just a mess that is full of holes, dropped storylines and so many awful attempts to push comedy where there shouldn’t be any.

Coogan, obviously, has the starring role as the titular Parole Officer, Simon Garden, who accidentally witnesses a murder carried out by a corrupt cop (Stephen Dillane). He is threatened with going to prison for the crime unless he shuts his mouth and leaves Manchester forever. In order to clear his name, Simon puts together a plan to rob a banks and retrieve a VHS tape showing the truth. He creates a crew using the only 3 criminals that he has successfully convinced to go straight and a teenage joy rider he was trying to help. At the same time, Simon is attempting to romance the way out of his league WPC Emmap (Lena Headey) who, for reasons not shown during the film, has fallen for the charms that nobody else seems to realise Simon has.

Despite boasting a great cast, everything about The Parole Officer feels kind of flat. The actors all do as great a job as they can but it never comes together. It always feels like we’re watching a terrible film instead of being engrossed in a fantastically woven tale. Although, Dillane is memorable as the bent copper who threatens Simon and the trio of ex-criminals fair much better than Coogan himself. It helps that they are played by the likes of Om Puri and Ben Miller, of course, but they all get some fairly decent moments. What is majorly disappointing is that none of the characters have any real depth. Coogan clearly has a talent for creating well-rounded characters but nobody, not even Simon, feels fleshed out. You don’t really know anything about anybody or why we should give a shit about them. This film is so desperate to get to the action and the gags that it skips the important stuff.

There is certainly an issue with pacing and editing in this film. The first 30 minutes are a confusing mess which feels as though major parts of the story have been cut. People suddenly talk to each other like old friends and seem to know things they really shouldn’t. And that’s exactly the point where you realise that you still have an hour of this shit to sit through. The script has a decent stab at creating some comedy to move things along but most of it falls flat in the end. There are a couple of really funny moments but, for the most part, it relies too heavily on physical comedy or gross-out gags. I can see why Steve Coogan regrets making this film. I regretted watching it again before I was even half-way through. There is very little to really celebrate here. It deserves props for getting such an amazing cast together but it ruins it by not giving them anything to do. Considering how great we know Coogan can be, The Parole Officer it’s even more insane that this film is as bad as it is.

Tuesday’s Reviews – One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

books, crime, fucking awful, fucking obvious, meh, murder, review

If you lookup ‘YA’ on my blog then you’ll come upon a recurring theme: I’m basically always disappointed. I don’t intentionally hate YA fiction but I think it happens to be too simplistic. I don’t remember reading much YA as a child. The only book I vividly remember, which means the only one I really liked, was Postcards From No Man’s Land. I can only have been about 12 when I read it but I loved it. Mostly because I found the stuff about World War 2 so interesting but also because it felt like a grown-up book. I don’t think my love affair with YA fiction really got too far beyond Postcard’s From No Man’s Land. Unfortunately, I grew up and realised that adult books got even more grown-up and even more interesting. I’ve never really been your typical teen reader so the paint-by-numbers style of these books just never really did anything for me. When I read YA now I tend to find it too obvious and full of the same tired cliched. I have always been a lover of bad teen cinema but that doesn’t mean I need the same nonsense to filter into literature. There’s a massive difference between seeing Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray being hyperbolic teen lovers on screen and reading another Romeo and Juliet wannabe YA novel. Anyway, despite all of this, I always get sucked in by the latest breakaway hit in YA fiction. I’ll read about something on Instagram or hear a synopsis and think “maybe this is the one”. Karen M. McManus is one of those YA writers who knows exactly how to lure in potential readers: by ripping off one of the greatest 80s teen movies of all time. How could I ignore it?

Technically, I was born in the 80s. Yes, I was only alive for the last 2 years so my memories of that era are nonexistent but that shouldn’t matter. My love of 80s culture is just about passable. It does, though, make my hatred of younger people’s love of all things 80s kind of hypocritical. I don’t know why but seeing hearing teenagers talking about how “random” it is that they love electro really gets my blood boiling. There’s a 20 year old guy I work with who keeps saying “I was born in the wrong era” because he enjoys listening to Depeche Mode. I mean, seriously? Who doesn’t like a bit of Depeche Mode. It doesn’t make you special. Anyway, the 80s has a weird hold over young people today and writers of YA fiction know it. That’s why Karen M. McManus has taken the premise of The Breakfast Club and turned it into an Agatha Christie novel for One of Us is Lying.

A Geek, A Jock, A Criminal, A Princess
A Murder
Who would you believe?”

So we have a direct link to John Hughes movie right there in the tagline to force people in. It’s blatant pandering that made me super angry; mostly because it fucking worked.

So, the basic premise of One of Us is Lying is that five kids enter detention one day but one of them ends up dead. The four remaining students are all suspects in his murder because, as we find out, the dead guy knew a whole bunch of secrets about them all. The rest of the book is divided into the perspectives of the four students as they make their way through the investigation and try to find out who is guilty. The problem is, it’s super fucking obvious from the very beginning who did it. Even before the murder happened I’d called it and then had to spend the rest of the book waiting for the inevitable. I have no time for any crime book that signposts the ending so brightly but still acts as though its a huge mystery when the big ‘reveal’ happens.

The title of this book is One of Us is Lying but, when it comes down to it, everyone’s lying. Most notably Karen M. McManus herself. Instead of weaving an intricate plot that fools her readers, McManus purposefully keeps information from her readers until the right time. I mean one of the narrators literally says “And then I remember. Mikhail Powers is gay.”. It’s a revelation that, considering the information we receive afterwards, this character shouldn’t have forgotten but did until McManus needed her to remember. It’s just shoddy and lazy writing: just reveal vital bits of the plot when it’s relevant instead of creating red herrings to keep up guessing. It’s not how to write a decent crime novel and, if I’m honest, I really regret associating this tripe with anything Agatha Christie ever wrote.

One of Us if Lying isn’t just bad YA fiction; it’s straight up bad writing. McManus starts with the final act and then finds a really convoluted way to get back to the beginning. It’s just stupid and, when you really think about it, the final reveal just wipes out everything we’ve just read. It makes everything the characters just went through null and void. It made me so fucking angry to get to the end. And that’s before we’ve even considered all of the major cliches that she’s included. For one thing, the so called “geek” is a super attractive, fairly popular girl who has boys fall madly in love with her at first sight. The “criminal” comes from a broken home and has endless terrible things lead him down a terrible path. The “jock” is hiding the most cliched secret of them all and is written in a truly unrealistic way. And the “princess” is the worst of the bunch. She goes through a supposedly inspiring transformation but it’s just superficial. These characters don’t have depth. They’re just stereotypes who fit into McManus’ plan.

This book is the epitome of everything that I hate about YA fiction but amped up to 11. It assumes that the people reading it are stupid or have no real care for good story telling. It’s written as if it’s for children but all of the teenage characters seem far too mature. A lot of YA fiction wants the best of both worlds. It wants readers whose tastes are immature enough to appreciate the writing but who also identify with teenagers who act like adults. The only good thing I can say about this book is that it was a super easy read. Mainly because there is no depth involved. You don’t even have to pay attention to what’s going on and, really, there’s not much going on. If you like The Breakfast Club, I suggest you do yourself a favour and just rewatch it. This rubbish isn’t worth your time.

Tuesday’s Reviews – His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

books, crime, fucking awful, Man Booker, review, Scotland

It seems as though last Tuesday was about a month ago but, as it turns out, it was only 7 days. You may remember that last week’s blog post was a bit of an unusual one thanks to some unexpected news. Instead of my scheduled review of the Man Booker 2016 Shortlisted His Bloody Project I spent the Tuesday review in a rather angry and sad analysis of a rejection for a job I really wanted. I’ve had time to come to terms with it now and, even though I’m still feeling all of those things, I’m not dwelling. I’m applying for more and trying to organise some useful shit to help me in the future. Now that I’m once again of sound-ish mind, I’m going to attempt to do what I wanted to last week. It may not have won the Man Booker Prize but His Bloody Project was a worthy, if unexpected, entry on this year’s shortlist. It’s my favourite entry on the shortlist… but, then again, it’s the only one I’ve actually read.

If you’ve been paying attention to my recent Sunday rundowns you may have noticed that it took fucking ages for me to finish this book. I partly blame the fact that during that time I was preparing for both of my recent interviews. The other portion of blame goes to me continued book slump. It’s a pain in the arse and it’s here with a vengeance. Whatever the reason, it certainly wasn’t any indication of the book’s quality. It’s an interesting read that I was desperate to pick up as soon as I heard about it. Taking the lead off the current trend for true crime, the author first recounts the tale of how he “found” a pile of documents pertaining to the trial of one of his relatives. What we have is a bizarre form of psychological crime thriller where, instead of witnessing a crime, the reader must put together the pieces of information laid before them to understand why three murders were committed.

The story is set in a remote village in rural Scotland in the late 1800s. The story is told through witness accounts, court transcripts and the memoir written as the guilty party awaited his trial. As the book’s subtitle states, it is a collection of Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae, a 17 year old crofter who confessed to the murder of three of his neighbours. The main chunk of the book follows Roderick’s own version of the events that lead him to enter the house of Lachlan Mackenzie one morning and kill him, his daughter, and his infant son. This account if further complicated by the medical examinations of the bodies, several witness statements from Roddy’s neighbours, and an evaluation of a top prison doctor. The mixed narratives all weave a complex web the reader must continue to untangle once they have run out of pages. It’s a captivating read that will keep you guessing for as along as you let it.

One of the novel’s greatest strengths lies in its historical setting. The novel presents a rich portrait of life in a 19th century crofting community and about legal proceedings from the time. The preamble that leads up to Roddy’s description of the murder presents a fascinating relationship between the poor members of the community tirelessly working for their unseen laird and living their lives according to their rigid faith. The murder is placed in a context of a stoic acceptance that bad things will happen no matter what. The community is shown to be at the mercy of so many powerful agencies that they no longer have control of their own destinies. They are victims of the circumstance and must bow down to those with any amount of power. And, as seen through Lachlan Mackenzie’s actions, when certain people gain power they find a perverse pleasure in torturing those below them.

His Bloody Project really is a fascinating read that really places the reader in the heart of the story. The historic aspects have a very authentic feel about them and the handy glossary helps overcome any potential language barriers beautifully. Despite the fact that we know from the outset that Roddy was guilty of the three murders, the novel continues to be surprising. It is also weirdly funny in a very The League of Gentlemen kind of way. It is an interesting way to present a crime novel and, instead of leading us to a conclusion in the traditional sense, Macrae Burnet asks the reader to consider the evidence before them and consider the psychological issues surrounding each individual.

Coming from a fairly new author and a small Scottish publishing house, His Bloody Project was always an unlikely and unusual addition to the Man Booker Shortlist, even before you take into account the prize’s apparent dislike of the crime genre. Plus, there is part of me that still feels like the attempt to portray the events as real is a tad too gimmicky for my liking. However, I can’t deny that I loved every moment of reading it and I think Macrae Burnet did a remarkable job of presenting the ambiguous natures of criminal proceedings. It deserves every second of its increased popularity since the nominations were announced and, despite not winning the actual title, it is a winner on so many more levels.

TBT – Finders Keepers by Stephen King

books, crime, fucking awful, meh, murder, readers, Stephen King, TBT, thriller, writing

Today has been so bloody hot again that I’ve done so little. I can’t focus on anything. I could easily have written this hours ago but, once again, we’re fast approaching the time at which I need to be asleep to function for my 7am start tomorrow and I’m finishing the damn thing. It’s not as if I can’t keep to a deadline I’m just in this hot weather haze where the idea of doing anything other than watch Netflix seems too taxing. I spent some time trying to organise my room and nearly fell off a step ladder earlier. It’s just one of those days. The thing I’ve done best at today is spent money on clothes that I really didn’t need. I mean I really really wanted them but I definitely didn’t need them. After that, I’ve been fairly successful at reading. It’s amazing how easy it’s become now I’m reading a book I actually want to pick up. His Bloody Project may be the only Man Booker Prize nominated book I’ve read but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be my favourite. Oh, what a difference it is to that End of Watch. I kind of wish I could get my time back from Stephen King after reading his Bill Hodges trilogy. You know, add up the minutes, take them off his life and put them onto mine. It only seems fair. That final book was ridiculous. Although, they kind of all were.

Tuesday’s Reviews – End of Watch by Stephen King

books, crime, meh, murder, review, Stephen King, trilogy

I know it’s getting to be a habit that I start every post by telling you I intended to write about another topic but I genuinely had plans to write about something else today. After finally watching Suicide Squad last week I had decided it was time to watch Batman vs Superman. I meant to watch it this weekend. I even tracked down a copy. It was the fucking ultimate edition and everything. With over 30 extra minutes of Zack Synder nonsense! However, when it came down to it, the idea of a whopping 3 hours of shit like The Man of Steel but with added Batfleck and Khal Drogo just didn’t appeal. So, in celebration of finally finishing this book after weeks of trying, I decided to give you my thoughts on the final part of Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy. Mainly because I can’t find one person on the internet who doesn’t absolutely fucking love it. And, more mysteriously if you ask me, nobody is bemoaning the use of present tense which is still super annoying to read in. It utterly mystifies me. I mean, did King actually write these as film scripts but decide it was better to get them as novels first? It sounds so childish. Like the kind of shit you’d write in primary school but with actual punctuation and symbolism and shit.

TBT – See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

buddy comedy, crime, fucking awful, Gene Wilder, in memoriam, murder, Richard Pryor, TBT

Last week the great Gene Wilder died at the age of 83. Whilst the news was upsetting, I have to admit that a part of me thought he was already dead. Plus, in the ensuing days it really showed me that my ability to differentiate between Gene Wilder and Gene Hackman was sorely lacking. I lost count of the number of times I confused those two. Now, when a colleague mentioned the news the other day she referred to it as “the death of Willy Wonka”. Now, because I never miss a chance to argue with people, I declared this as being an insult to an actor with so much talent. What of his work with Mel Brooks and his films with Richard Pryor? Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka is iconic, no doubt, but he is more than that. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever really liked Wilder’s interpretation of the owner of the world famous chocolate factory. I’m fucking stubborn and it didn’t fit with my idea of the book. Still, Wilder was a phenomenal performer and probably had a huge impact on many people’s childhoods. I even considered reviewing it for this post. However, I’ve always been a bit freaked out by that one fucking creepy scene on the boat and didn’t want to go through it again. Like the well-adjusted adult that I am. I also think, as adaptations go, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory isn’t as good as it could have been. As such, I’ve never been the biggest fan. So I turned to the ever reliable Netflix to see what alternatives I could find. Turns out, not many. Now, if I was a person with more time and less laziness I would have gone down the Mel Brooks route. Unfortunately, I’m not that person. Instead I’m the kind of gal that will pick one of his shitty comedies because of how easy it is to watch.

On paper See No Evil, Hear No Evil had huge potential for an 80s comedy film: Wally Krue, a blind man, gets a job at a newsstand working with the deaf Dave Lyons. Both men try their hardest to hide their disability and get by using their other senses. Dave manages by reading lips whilst Wally has learnt how to get around using his hearing. Clearly, when the pair come together they find each other making up for their own limitations and the way is left open for some incredible moments of hilarity. There are plenty of situations that the pair could have got themselves into to provide the audience with a laugh. The film had the makings of a fantastically silly comedy where two men come to terms with their own issues thanks to their new friendship.

Of course, See No Evil, Hear No Evil is not that kind of film. No, it was decided that the best thing to do with Wally and Dave is to get them mixed up in a shitty murder plot. Inspirational. When Wally’s bookie turns up a the newsstand demanding money he ends up being killed by a mysterious lady with great legs (Joan Severance). Thanks to their respective disabilities neither Wally or Dave are able to describe the killer and, thus, become implicated in the crime. Cue many repetitive moments where nobody remembers that you need to look at Dave for him to understand you. Meanwhile, it turns out the bookie was working with a couple of criminals to steal a coin, which is actual fact a microchip or some shit… not that it fucking matters that you know that. Great legs and her sidekick, a young, British-accented Kevin Spacey, follow the pair in order to retrieve their loot. Cut to many classic capers where the pair escape, get captured and escape again before making their way to the final showdown in a huge house in the middle of nowhere. This film has it all: a blind car chase; a kidnapped sister; mistaken identity; fake European accents; and angry guard dogs.

With that list I’d suggest that the plot is just your standard, paint by numbers 80s action/crime/comedy but that seems really unfair to other films of that decade. There’s nothing about the story that seems to have been put there to interest you. The narrative is patchy and the script is mostly awful. There are a few nice touches here and there but the majority of the stuff is just uninspiring guff. The only thing that makes this film even remotely successful is the partnership between its two main stars. See No Evil was Wilder and Pryor’s third outing together and they show the great chemistry that had made them such a hit with audiences before. The scenes in which the two are just talking are fantastic. It’s just a shame that they are over with so quickly. Clearly the director  believed we didn’t want sentiment but an endless stream of mindless nonsense… which is fucking insane.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil is hardly the worst film of its kind, especially when it comes to the 80s, but, considering who was starring in it and the exciting premise, it should have been better. Rather than being a clever comedy that uses the interesting dynamic between its two main characters, it settles down to be a cheap and easy comedy-crime caper. I wouldn’t exactly say that I wish I hadn’t seen or heard this film (because that would be both incorrect and vomit-inducing) but I wish I’d watched one of the better Pryor and Wilder pairings. The films boats an excessive 5 writers, including Wilder himself, so maybe that explains why the See No Evil script feels so disjointed. It’s like a patchwork quilt where the plots of several films all sewn together in a manner than was only just workable with various embellishments thrown in from several different people. It’s the kind of quilt you’d love because it was handmade but would definitely hide in you spare room so you didn’t ever have to see it. The film very often doesn’t make sense and logic is easily replaced with lame gags. I’d be okay with it if it was funny enough to make up for it but it’s just not. This film fails on nearly every count. Although, despite all of this criticism, it’s a great film to watch if you want to remember just how fucking awesome Gene Wilder is. It’s not many actors that could star in such shit and still make it work for them.