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  Shallow Grave Absolute Murder
Year: 1994
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ewan McGregor, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Colin McCredie, Peter Mullan, Leonard O'Malley, Tony Curran, John Hodge, Robert David MacDonald, Gary Lewis
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: If you cannot trust your friends, who can you trust? These three flatmates think they know everything there is to know about each other, such as what kind of person they would like to rent the spare room of their plush Edinburgh apartment, and they know that nobody they have seen so far has been up to their high and exacting standards. That's before Hugo (Keith Allen) appears, and doctor Juliet (Kerry Fox) invites him in for a chat; she reports back to journalist Alex (Ewan McGregor) and accountant David (Christopher Eccleston) that they have found their man. They have questions for him naturally, but are confident their choice is a good one...

One of those questions being, have you ever killed anyone, and the cool, calm and collected Hugo replies with a no, although we suspect he knows people who have. Those suspicions are confirmed throughout the next eighty minutes or so, as one of the bright spots of nineties Brit cinema plays out, although for a bright spot it is very dark. One of the strengths of the film was not so much in its casting, with semi-famous actors in key roles (McGregor had just starred in Dennis Potter's Lipstick on Your Collar on TV, Fox was known internationally to a degree for An Angel at My Table, and so on), but in former doctor John Hodge's razor sharp scripting, that went like a rocket so you did not have time to pause and reflect over anything improbable.

Another clever aspect to that script was not to make the three flatmates too sympathetic, indeed they're a bunch of smug bastards as seen by their cruel treatment of the potential tenants they interview. With this established early on, we're not too bothered if something truly awful happens to them as if we liked them a lot more then the story would be far too painful to watch. It's a tightrope director Danny Boyle, in his big screen debut, walked with great skill, bringing out the pitch black comedy of a film that could too easily have fallen victim to the grim, too cynical for its own good affliction that occured in too many of its British peers. The plot begins in earnest not once Hugo has moved in, but once he has been there a couple of days.

Well, he's there in spirit at least as the trio wonder where he's got to after one day, and note that his car is still parked outside so he cannot have gone far. The door to his room is locked from the inside, so what possible alternative do they have but to barge the door down and see if he's still there - he is, as it turns out. Or his corpse is, having succumbed to what we assume was a drugs overdose, though as Juliet is telephoning the emergency services, Alex makes a discovery under the bed, a suitcase full of thousands upon thousands of pounds. Needless to say, Juliet hangs up and the three of them start scheming to work out ways to keep their hands on the cash.

Ah, if only it were that simple. But with every simple plan that goes against one's morals, there is a price to pay, and the trio certainly pay it as they decide to dispose of the body, deny all knowledge of Hugo, and live off the proceeds of their machinations, no questions asked. Except they might not be asking questions, but the associates of the deceased are on his trail, and they're not very nice men; that's not to mention the police detective, superbly played by Ken Stott, who is sniffing around. There's more to this, as the actual business of cutting up a body, easy enough in other movie thrillers, here has serious psychological consequence and David, the poor sap elected to take care of it, goes round the bend, a welcome touch for the suspense of the piece and yet another example of how well made Shallow Grave was. While its contemporaries may be looking a little old hat, here was one Britflick that stood the test of time, lean, mean and impressive as ever. Music by Simon Boswell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Danny Boyle  (1956 - )

British director, from TV, who started his movie career with two big homegrown hits: Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. His Hollywood efforts suggested he's better when based in the U.K., as both 2005's kids comedy Millions and the hit zombie shocker 28 Days Later were big improvements on his two previous features, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.

Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later, then scripted Boyle's ambitious sci-fi epic Sunshine. Boyle next enjoyed worldwide and Oscar success with Slumdog Millionaire, the biggest hit of his career, which he followed with true life survival drama 127 Hours and tricksy thriller Trance, in between staging the 2012 London Olympics to great acclaim. Business biopic Steve Jobs was a flop, however.

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