Shallow Grave * * * * 1/2

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Director: Danny Boyle.
Screenplay: John Hodge.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, Keith Allen, Ken Stott, Colin McCredie, Peter Mullan, Gary Lewis, Tony Curran, John Hodge.

Before moving on to work with such lucrative film stars as Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Beach” or reaching the Oscar winning heights of “Slumdog Millionaire“, director Danny Boyle cut his teeth on this low-budget Scottish crime thriller – which still remains one of his finest films to this day.

Juliet (Kerry Fox), David (Christopher Eccleston) and Alex (Ewan McGregor) are a sardonic trio of roommates in Edinburgh, who take in enigmatic lodger Hugo (Keith Allen). When they find him dead, and a suitcase full of money in his possession, their worst instincts rise to the surface and involve them in a snowballing scheme to keep the cash.

A tightly constructed Hitchcockian thriller that with a shoestring budget only serves to force the hand of the talented cast and crew. The script by John Hodge is vice-like, the music by Simon Boswell is perfectly pitched and Danny Boyle’s direction is flawless. The performances from the three leads are also entirely convincing; Kerry Fox delivers a reserved and competent turn but she is overshadowed by an excellent Christopher Eccleston who, with ease, goes from mild mannered to dangerously psychotic. As good as Eccleston is, I would love to have seen Robert Carlyle’s take on it (a role which was offered to him originally). The real heart and fun of the film though, is an irritating and energetic Ewan McGregor in his breakout role. With these committed and highly believable performances we are allowed to invest in the characters and the predicament they find themselves in. Identifying with the trio is the films hook and it works a treat. Of course, Boyle and Hodge know this and it’s not long before they have the audience eating out of their hands, wringing out every bit of suspense they can.

The budget may be low but it doesn’t matter because everything else is in place. It has tension in spades and effortlessly shifts from black comedy to dark thriller. It’s reminiscent of early Coen Brothers and their achievements in “Blood Simple“. Also, like that film, it’s so good on such a cheap budget that it’s a crime in itself.

Mark Walker

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26 Responses to “Shallow Grave * * * * 1/2”

  1. Nice review. I haven’t seen this, but I like Boyle’s early films. I’ll have to check it out. Nice review.

    • Thanks man. This was Boyle’s very first film shot on a low budget but it was easy to see why he made it in the business. Brilliant little film. Think “Blood Simple” and you’ll get an idea.

  2. Wow, high praise, I must get on this one pronto!

    • Cheers Chris. It was after our little Hipster discussion that I decided to look back at this. It’s actually an older review of mine that I done when no-one was following me. Decided to go back and brush it up a little. Well worth checking out, though.

  3. This is one of Danny Boyle’s I’ve yet to see. Must. Rectify. Thanks, Mark.

    • I hope you do rectify Michael. It’s still my favourite of his – after Trainspotting. Great little tightly structured thriller. You could see early on that Boyle had a lot of talent.

  4. Man, not seen this one for a long time. To be honest, I can’t remember too much about it so might have to dust it off and give it a whirl, especially with Trance out next week.

  5. What a coincedence that you also recently saw this movie, saw it about two weeks ago and will be reviewing it myself pretty soon. Never saw it before and really loved it as I had no idea where it all was going…

    • As it is Nostra. This was actually an old review of mine that I decided to polish up as I had no followers when I posted it over a year. I was reminded of it recently when I was collaborating with another blogger and thought I’d dust it off and send it out again. I might do that with more of my older reviews that no-one has came across yet.
      Glad to hear you liked it though. It’s such a great little film. I hope more people check it out.

      • That is a great idea! Might consider doing something like that as well with my older reviews (which will probably need a lot of rewriting ;))

      • When I look at my Shallow Grave review, it’s a lot more concise than my reviews now. This is how I started out. I was tempted to re-write it but found that the point still came across and decided to just make the odd change. I’ve got loads of older reviews that will need a bit more attention though.

  6. Somehow I thought you’ve reviewed this over the weekend Mark. I’ve been meaning to check this out. Looks like Boyle and John Hodge are working together again in TRANCE, I invite you to check out my spotlight on it. I’ll be going to a press screening of that in a couple of weeks!

    • This was an old review of mine Ruth but when I posted it last year, I had very few followers and nobody had read it. A lot of my early reviews are needing edited and sent out again anyway as some are very lazily written. I was reminded of this again recently and decided it was a nice time to remind people of Boyle (and Hodge’s) debut. Such a great little film.

      • Nice! I did the same thing with my Dear Frankie review as I wrote it when nobody was reading my blog, ahah.

      • It must be done I think. I posted over a 100 reviews before anyone was even interested. I robbed myself of people’s attention ;-)
        For the most part though, it’s nice to go back and dust them down. I’ll do it again but mostly with reviews that no-one has seen or ones that really need tidying up. My opinion will never change on any of them but I may change the odd word use.

  7. SINCE WHEN DID THIS GET A CRITERION RELEASE!?!?!!? I’ve been looking for this amazing movie on DVD forever! All the points to Mark!

    Also, Great review lol.

    • I wasn’t aware it was a Criterion release until I got hold of the poster to be honest Nick. It’s a great film though and thoroughly deserving of being included amongst that range.

  8. Nice review, Marky. I’ll seek this one out.

  9. daveackackattack Says:

    I should give this on a re-watch as I haven’t seen it since it came out. I had seen Kerry Fox previously in Jane Campion’s Angel At My Table but didn’t even recognize her from that movie. The cast was great. Especially loved the interview scene.

    • This is always worth a re-watch Dave. It’s still one of Boyle’s best films in my opinion. This was an old review of mine that I reposted but a re-watch wouldn’t go amiss on my part either.

  10. Not one that I’ve heard of… I’ll have to keep my eyes open for it. Sounds like a pretty good one.

    • It’s brilliant Morgan. Worth watching just see where Boyle cut his teeth and a very early role for McGregor. It’s not just about them though. The film itself is superb. Hope you like it.

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