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Shallow Grave

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Shallow Grave

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox
Director: Danny Boyle
Rated: R
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: February 1995
Genres: Suspense, Drama, Mystery

*Also starring: Christopher Eccleston, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Colin McCredie, John Hodge

Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

British director Danny Boyle is known for TRAINSPOTTING and hardly anything else, at least when the general audience is concerned. Boyle has his less than stellar post-TRAINSPOTTING career to thank for that, but it would be unfair to call him "one hit wonder". Before his biggest hit he had already established himself on television and had very interesting feature film debut in the form of 1994 thriller SHALLOW GRAVE.

The plot is set in Edinburgh. Three yuppies - accountant David Stephens (played by Christopher Ecclestone), physician Juliet Miller (played by Kerry Fox) and reporter Alex Law (played by Ewan MacGregor) - share the flat, but they need the fourth flatmate. They put the ad in the newspapers, but all the applicants fail their criteria except one - quiet and mysterious Hugo (played by Colin McCreedie) who pays cash up front. He doesn't stay in flat too long - before his flatmates are really in position to befriend him he dies from apparent heroin overdose. Next to him is a suitcase full of cash and this is the reason why David, Juliet and Alex would have second thoughts of calling paramedics and police. Since nobody knows that Hugo answered their ad, they decide to hide the body and divide the money between themselves. But their pact doesn't last long - Hugo's disappearance is investigated by both the police and Hugo's associates from criminal underworld. Three friends soon succumb to paranoia, greed, mistrust and sometimes even madness.

Many modern thrillers look like their authors aspire to be called "Hitchockian", but few of them come near the standards set by Master of Suspense. Script by John Hodge, on the other hand, is based around cornerstone of Hitchcock's thrillers - plot dealing with ordinary people in extraordinary situation. The other interesting thing about SHALLOW GRAVE is the lack of classic villains - the protagonists are those who are going to mishandle such situation and slowly transform themselves from "normal" people into murderous lunatics; in this case, SHALLOW GRAVE is closer to Huston's classic THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE than to classic thrillers. But the most obvious difference is in style - in order to tell the story, Boyle is using all the neat visual tricks often associated with MTV- generation. The cast is impeccable, especially Christopher Ecclestone in the role of boring bookworm who gradually transforms into demented killer. Yet, all the best actors can't compensate the major flaw of this film - three protagonists, being portrayed as snobbish, cruel and greedy yuppies, are simply too dislikeable for the audience to care for them and by the end of the film their fate mean very little to the audience. On the other hand, combination of good directing, plenty of Hitchcock quotes and incredibly sharp dialogue by John Hodge turn SHALLOW GRAVE into much better film than its title or relatively obscure reputation would indicate.

Copyright 2003 Dragan Antulov

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