Oh my God! This wry dry deliberately droll and tall British comedy takes sweeping satirical swipes at organized religion, and emerges from the trial by fire smelling…well, if not exactly like roses, then somewhere close. Say Your Prayers is a clever title for this iconoclastic pilgrimage. It is what you advise to someone about to die. Or then it is a command from a believer to a non-believer. There are both the factors in this witty wise and wacky comedy, so acutely insightful and pungent in its writing—take a bow, Harry Michell and Jamie Fraser—you just want to get your hand on the script to see how much of the humour on paper has been transferred to the screen.
Quite a lot, I suspect. Quite a lot! The plot bristles with savage humour, albeit swathed in amazing grace. In the attention-grabbing opening, we meet the film’s two heroes—if that is how we can describe the two Yorkshire siblings, one of whom is hyper-excitable and the other a bit daft—who end up killing the wrong guy.
You see, brothers Vic (Tom Brooke) and Tim(Harry Melling) have been assigned to exterminate the anti-religion crusader John Huxley(Roger Allam). They mistake another man for their intended target. What follows is a melee of mirthful mayhem with the two mismatched brothers—one who has no appetite for blood and the other who is determined to enjoy his assassin’s vocation—trying to make amends with their fanatic religious leader (veteran Derek Jacobi, fabulously reined-in with his villainous religiosity) by finding the right murder victim and snuffing him off the face of this ungodly earth before he does more harm with his anti-Christianity.
The screenplay is a scream play. Many times I found myself laughing out loud at the bungling brothers’ bloodthirsty antics. Both the actors playing the brothers are superb in their neurotic niche. But Harry Melling is better than Tom Brooks. Don’t ask. He just is. Say Your Prayers is a film that allows no questions. And it answers only those questions that it chooses to. Take it or leave it. Hence the crux of the battle between religion and its doubters—is there a God?—is unanswered. But a subsidiary issue—whether there is a God or not there sure as hell are people having fun at His expense—gets a rollicking representation in this remarkably rib-tickling rant on religion versus the cynic.
Among its many virtues, count the female cop who is assigned to protect the anti-religion god-awful crusader. Hollywood has a long history of quirky female cops, Frances McDormand in Fargo being the classic case. Here she is played by Anna Maxwell Martin who looks like she would rather be watching Say Your Prayers at home with her feet up and a tub of popcorn than be a character in the film. Chalk up a winner for this delightfully irreverent tongue-in-cheek cheeky comedy about God, and the atheists.
Directed by Harry Michell, Say Your Prayers gets 3 stars.
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