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Shallow Grave (1995)

2009-03-13 13:43
Shallow Grave

Three roommates, who are also best friends, have their loyalties tested when they discover their new flatmate dead, and a suitcase full of cash in his room.

The claustrophobic setting of the movie's story adds to the creeping feeling of malcontent between the three young flatmates. Much of the action takes place within the confines of their flat, each sparsely furnished room carrying a growing air of foreboding as their hegemony unravels. There's brash, sexy journalist Alex (Ewan McGregor), bookish, introverted chartered accountant David (Christopher Eccleston) and the brittle femme fatale Juliet (Kerry Fox), a medical doctor. Each character is the kind of smug yuppy you'd love to smack in the face, but also seriously want to be.

The movie opens in typical Boyle style – a quiet, contemplative moment followed by a mad rush through the streets of Glasgow as Leftfield are blast through the speakers. We meet the threesome in their roomy lounge as they interview prospective new flatmates.

For all their attractive outward appearances, they turn out to be a rather arrogant bunch, insulting anyone they don’t deem cool enough to share their living space (they're especially mean to the ginger-hued Cameron, a demon who returns to exact his revenge later in the movie) and subject candidates to humiliating questions as they assert their intellectual and social dominance over these needy nobodies.

Then they meet the equally cool and charismatic Hugo (Keith Allen), a novelist whose naked body (yes, you get to see Lily's dad's willy!) is discovered. The shock seems to pass in a flash as Alex starts rummaging through Hugo's belongings, and the fateful suitcase is found. After some brief debate, they decide to keep the cash and bury the body in a field. So why would three successful, intelligent people decide to do something so plainly stupid?

Boyle (directing a script by John Hodge) seems less concerned with diagnosing their morality complex, and instead delves into the seemingly endless pit of horror and regret that comes with playing at being a criminal mastermind. Slowly but surely, the repercussions of their reckless act begins to tear away at their sanity – particularly David's, who has transformed into a reclusive psycho killer, holing himself up in the attic after being assigned the gruesome task of dismembering Hugo's body before he was buried.

What's worse is the mind games being played by each of the characters as the paranoia and greed settle in. The friends become suspicious of one another as each jockeys for power – David can't be trusted because he's clearly off his rocker, Alex is too careless and self-obsessed, and Juliet is willing to sleep her way into the heart of whoever comes alive out of the duel.
At the same time, a sadistic band of gangsters in search of Hugo and the loot he apparently stole from them, are tearing their way across the city, exacting a particularly vile brand of torture on anyone who may know his whereabouts.

There's little joy to be had from watching Shallow Grave, but it paints a compelling darkness that's both sexy and scary. Boyle would, of course, go on to make better movies, but the themes of ill-gotten riches and growing danger return, particularly in Trainspotting (where he reunited with McGregor), the infinitely charming Millions and his Oscar-winning latest, Slumdog Millionaire. For Boyle fans, his recent success comes as little surprise. But with a start as fearless and smart as Shallow Grave, the big time was always just a matter of time.

A bit of trivia: [from IMDB.com]

- Ewan McGregor's mother, Carol McGregor, has a cameo in the film as one of the prospective flatmates.

- Such were the budgetary constraints during the shoot, the production had to auction off various props in order to raise enough money to buy essential film stock needed to complete the movie.

- Shallow Grave marked the feature debut for a number of its creators. It was the first feature that Danny Boyle directed, the debut for screenwriter John Hodge, and the first feature starring role for Ewan McGregor.

- According to director Danny Boyle there's a sly connection between this film and his next film, Trainspotting (1996). Keith Allen portrays a drug dealer in both films leading us to believe he may be the same character featured in both, as Trainspotting was suppose to take place in the late 80s before the occurrences in Shallow Grave.

Memorable quotes:

Master of Ceremonies:
Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. First of all may I thank you all for coming along tonight and supporting our appeal to raise funds for the sick children's unit.
Alex: You didn't tell me that this was for children. I hate children. I'd raise money to have the little fuckers put down. I want me money back!

[Juliet, Alex and David are about to dispose of Hugo's body by rendering it unidentifiable]
Juliet: I can't do it.
Alex: But Juliet, you're a doctor. You kill people every day.

Alex: It's not every day I find a story in my own flat.
Juliet: It's not a story, Alex. It's a corpse.

David: You paid 500 pounds for this?
Juliet: That's what it cost, David.
David: No, no, that's what you paid for it. 500 pounds is what you paid for it. We don't know how much it cost us yet. For you two to have a good time, we don't know the cost of that yet.

Alex: Look over there! It's Cameron!
Juliet: Who?
Alex: Cameron. You remember Cameron.
Juliet: No, I don't.
Alex: What's he doing here?
Juliet: That's not him.
Alex: It is. Cameron! Cameron! Come on over here! Come on!
Cameron: What?
Alex: Nothing. We thought you were someone else. Good luck. (Cameron leaves.) I love that guy, but why does he have to follow us around?

Who needs enemies when you have friends ready to stab you in the back? Here's why Danny Boyle’s directorial debut is such a nasty thrill.

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  • Rating:
Loved this movie! Was the kind of movie you enjoyed watching, so much, and wished there were more like it. Gripping.

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