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Shallow Grave

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					"Shallow Grave," a 1994 black comedy-farce, was the feature film debut
of young British director Danny Boyle, who was just making his escape
from British television. (You can catch his TV work in Inspector Morse -
Complete Boxset [DVD], and Hamish MacBeth : Series 1-3 (6 Disc Box Set)
[DVD], and it's well-worth the catching, if you can. ) Boyle's first
movie is pure "tartan noir," as they call one of the current schools of
Scottish mystery-making, tough, funny, macabre. And it couldn't be
further removed from what Hollywood routinely serves us.

SHALLOW GRAVE starred several then-unknown actors. Christopher
Eccleston, Jude [DVD] [1996], as "David Stephens;" Ewan McGregor,
Trainspotting [DVD] [1996], as "Alex Law," and Kerry Fox as "Juliet
Miller." In smaller parts it featured; as "Detective Inspector McCall,"
Ken Stott, who's since made a career playing TV cops, most
recently,Rebus : Seasons 3-4 (6 Disc Set) [DVD], and Colin McCredie,
whom some may remember from the later series of TAGGART. Robert Carlyle,
The Full Monty [1997] [DVD], an actor with whom Boyle had previously
worked on HAMISH was offered the starring part of "David," but turned it
down.

Boyle was born on October 20, 1956 (same date as Viggo Mortenson), in
Manchester, England, son of first generation Irish Catholic immigrants.
He began working in theater: he was Artistic Director of the Royal Court
from 1982-85, and then Deputy Director from 1985-87. In his film career,
since SHALLOW GRAVE, he's gone on to make TRAINSPOTTING, a fairly
outrageous druggie film, with Ewan McGregor again, in 1996; and 28 Days
Later ... [DVD] [2002]a zombie movie like no other, in 2002. And, of
course, he got an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire [DVD]. His work tends to
have a light--some might say shallow-- touch, and a taste for the
fantastic.

"Shallow" is a fresh take on a hoary idea: that pots of money, no matter
how acquired, will break any friendship/companionship/marriage. It's set
in Edinburgh, and opens on a sweeping panorama of that city's elegant,
historic New Town district. (Only exteriors were filmed in Edinburgh,
however, the rest was filmed in Glasgow to take advantage of a 150,000
pound grant from that city's film board.) Three roommates, needing a
fourth for financial reasons, are interviewing candidates; they're kind
of snarky, but funny if you don't happen to be the interviewee. Their
flat is drop dead gorgeous, big and light, full of unexpected color:
you'd sure like to be the lucky one chosen. Mysterious Hugo, the man
chosen, dies immediately after moving in. They never exactly know why,
neither do we; all parties just assume drug overdose, especially after
Hugo's found to have a suitcase full of nice crisp 100 pound notes. This
sets the plot, in all its gruesome, unpredictable glory, in motion; six
people will be dead by movie's end.

We never learn the back stories of the three main characters, nor any of
the others, nor why they are acting as they do. And none of the
characters are shown to be nice people, worth rooting for. In fact, in
my off-the cuff memory, we haven't been presented with three such easy
to dislike characters since the late John Huston's masterpiece TREASURE
OF THE SIERRA MADRE, starring Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs, John's
father Walter as another of the miners, and ending with a body count
about the same as "Shallow Grave's."

In sum, SHALLOW GRAVE is a tight, entertaining, shallow little thriller,
with Boyle's trademark touch of the fantastic. It's like nothing you've
ever seen before. Your feelings about it will be influenced by your
fondness for the unexpected, and your willingness to sit there and let a
movie take you where it will.

				
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posted:6/30/2012
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