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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2003
What will happen when three affluent and professional friends and flatmates,a journalist,a doctor and a chartered accountant,find a corpse and a suitcase full of money? What choices will confront these educated and intelligent people and what are the consequences of their choice?
This is the story of Shallow Grave, the debut long feature of Brit Danny Boyle, and the first of his many collaborations with writer Dr John Hodge (MD not PHD).
More specifically,it is the story of two men,Ewan McGregor and Chris Eccleston and a woman, Kerry Fox who share a flat and a friendship that is obviously harmonious.Deciding to let a fourth room in their large flat,they begin to interview likely candidates with an air of haughty antagonism and playful sarcasm,until Mr Keith Allen himself drops by, mysterious but with ready cash and moves in.
Yet their new roommate's life is quite short, and he is discovered dead, but with a lot of cash. The money of a man who came out of nowhere, had no visitors and apparently will not be missed too soon, is quite tempting to keep. This is the dilemma the three friends faced in a very tense moment that pierced right through their conscience.
In John Boorman's Excalibur, Merlin the magician, granting the wish of a knight to change his appearance into another for carnal reasons,says in a memorable quote ' The future has taken root in the present'.
This is exactly what happened in Shallow Grave the very second our heroes decided to keep the money, depose of the body (in parts, a task that traumatized them), and live happily ever after.So they thought!
How wrong they were, for crossing the threshold of their moral and ethical obligations towards their dead roommate,will forever change their lives and they will pay dearly for it.
Greed will inevitably be the driving force that will govern their lives and relationship from then on,pull them apart,reduce them from highly respectable members of the society to frightened and paranoid ,even pathetic creatures, that live mainly by their instincts.
Of course no one is truly mysterious and although we really do not know who really was the character of Keith Allen and where is the source of that money, we do get an idea that his line of work did not involve paying taxes, and two of his not so nice chums soon enough,looking desperately for him, find their way to the flat, obviously not thinking of tea and scones.But they are murdered and deposed of.
These bodies soon resurface (no crime is perfect as the cliche goes)and this will wet the appetite of the subtley clever police, with the chief inspector and his detective (played by John Hodge himself) who rightly suspect foul play.
All this lead to a tragic end, that was in a way inevitable the moment the lure of cash (even for people who really do not need it) turned into a possessive demon. It is a frightening thought of course, because no matter how much we claim superior moral ground and are indignant, we can never anticipate the choice we will make, facing a similar situation.
This makes Shallow Grave a little gem of a movie, a product of talented group of friends (and not of the studio machine)who contributed their effort to give us a film that is quite original and with a message that is as old but poignant as life itself. It is about the consequence of our choices, and the path it will take us once we cross that threshold.
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on June 22, 2002
This was the first of the Boyle/McDonald/Hodge/McGregor filmic collaborations and what a fantastic debut! The story of three flatmates who discover their new flatmate dead and a wad of cash - it's a beguiling premise and one that would certainly give anyone second thoughts. It certainly doesn't spoil the plot to say that they take the cash but there the problems begin.
The three leads are uniformly excellent with Ewan McGregor showing the talent that would push him to movie stardom (and I don't mean "that" talent, for all you watchers of The Pillow Book and Velvet Goldmine). However it's Kerry Fox who is the most outstanding here and proves what a consistently underrated actress she is. Her character plays a game with both of her male flatmates, trying to make sure she is on the "winning" side.
There is plenty of evidence here of Danny Boyle's directorial finesse which is why Hollywood have come calling - if only he hadn't answered their call..................
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on November 17, 2001
"How would you react if I told you I was an antichrist?" - mocks David the prospective roommate during one of the fun interviews in the beginning of the movie. Well, what do you know? A little further into the plot and that question doesn't sound so comical anymore.
This film is not a simple betrayal and greed story, but rather deep exploration of the darker side of human nature, terrifying journey into the anti-world where love becomes hate, generosity turns into greed, friendship into betrayal, and even light comes from beneath.
Thus, it is no accident that Alex, who places less emphasis on moral issues than his roommates, is least affected by that transformation, and I would argue that his initial motive for replacing the contents of the suitcase was just a practical joke. And David's reason for taking control of the money and his later attempt to have it all is not really greed, but rather some warped sense of justice, the revenge on his former friends for pushing him into the abyss of inhumanity. And Juliet, also, can not escape destruction, although she realizes it at a later stage. Then, she does want the money badly, as the only possible compensation for the lost soul.
I saw this film first time few years ago on late night TV, starting about one-fifth into the feature, missing the title and credits. The story, the atmosphere, the detachment and subtle irony of the presentation, which made it even more powerful, its momentum and unflagging rhythm, the acting, - it was like a kick in the head. Next morning, I was calling my friends, describing the plot and asking for the title, until someone gave me the answer. "What an amazing film!" - my reply was.
Five stars are not enough to rate this film's virtues. IMHO, it is one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema, a must for a serious viewer. "Black comedy"? Give me a break!
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on June 7, 2001
Black humor is a forte of the Brits and Shallow Grave is no exception. When three self-important room mates invite a fourth to share their oh so chic flat they have no idea their new found friend is a drug dealer with no-nonsense friends. Finding their new mate dead from a drug overdose and a suitcase filled with money under his bed, the flat mates must decide how to resolve splitting the tedious household chores like disposing of the body. Equitably they draw straws and the looser has the honor of cutting up the corpse. The first film outing of the successful trio of actor Ewan McGregor, director Andrew MacDonald, and producer Danny Boyle who later scored with Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary, this fast comedy is full of great music and is a bonus for any collector of British 90s films. With great supporting cast, Kerry Fox and Christopher Eccelson, Shallow Grave is humorously most irreverent toward all that yuppiedom holds dear -- a good address, professional job with lots of opportunity for career advancement, and tons of money to blow on AV equipment. How the three resolve their upwardly mobile quest for the ultimate lifestyle is a surprise.
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on July 16, 2000
"So, when you sacrifice a goat, and you rip its heart out with your bare hands, do you then summon hellfire?" This movie is set up like a bad joke: a doctor, an accountant, and a journalist are looking for a new flatmate... The line above is one of the questions asked of the applicants. But things suddenly get less and less funny, starting when they find their new roomie dead in his bed with a suitcase full of money under it. They keep the money and hide the body. The scales gradually tip away from comedy and toward suspense as we are drawn into the minds of the three friends trying to deal with what they've done, until there is no reason at all to laugh except that it isn't happening to you. This movie is not as blatantly warped as Trainspotting (same director); rather, it is subtly bizarre. I rented it more for the chance to stare at Ewan McGregor with long hair than anything else, but I found it was darn good too. I couldn't tear my eyes off the TV screen.
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on May 25, 2000
I confess: I watched Shallow Grave for the simple fact that it had Ewan MacGreggor in it. I had heard whisperings about scenes that no ewan-phile should miss, and eagerly trotted out to grab a copy.
What I found was a fascinating movie that held my attention and imagination from start to finish. There were times that I was terribly confused from hard cuts between scenes, but in retrospect I have understood what was going on. It's one of those movies that you have to pay full attention to, or risk missing too much.
The changes that the three protagonists go through are human, understandable changes, though not necessarily easily foreseen. And I must say that the ending (without giving away too much) was VERY well done.
I give Shallow Grave 3 stars out of 5 for a plot that may have been a bit too convoluted but was fascinating nonetheless, and for characters that I would have liked to understand a bit more of, since the teasers of their lives were just enough to have me asking for more.
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on June 6, 2000
This little Scottish gem is worth watching more than once! I'll not bother recanting what it's about, you can read that above. This is a delightful example of how greed and peer pressure can twist and stain the human soul with ugliness. Most of the movie takes place in the three roommates' flat in Scotland so it has a real claustrophobic feel to it. The plot is simple, watch the three characters crumble as they're affected by their decision to keep the money and dispose of the body. Strongest scene: when David comments about the dinner after having to hack up the dead body "It tastes different." Possibly meaning both the dinner and everything else about his life. This film has a nice ending, not a phoney one just to keep everyone happy. Technically, the digital transfer is mediocre. The sound is quite low. I have to turn my TV up pretty high to hear it, but this could be due to poor production on the set. There are no extras included on this DVD.
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on July 21, 2001
You clearly can see these are 3 best friends for life & you also get to watch their lives & friendships take numerous turns for the worse in this excellent film. Much goes on in a short period of time, yet you never disbelieve any aspect of the friendships & the downward spiral.. And then on top of all of that - you got the rest of the movie spinning & whirling all about you. Very exciting movie!
The title does as much to suggest the gruesomeness of some aspects of the moview as it does the depravity of human nature as depicted in the flick. It ain't what you think, folks!! CHECK IT OUT!
A truly fantastic film you can watch over & over - it is that entertaining. A great story, great screenplay, awesome direction and excellent performances from the actors. Not to mention the best & most satisfying ending of any movie I have ever seen!
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on February 21, 2000
'Shallow Grave,' with Ewan McGregor, is the movie Danny Boyle made before he made 'Trainspotting.' This movie is nothing like 'Trainspotting.' Not even close. It's like Hitchcock. It's like 'Bound.' Actually, it's a lot like 'Bound.' No lesbians, though. It's about three British kids (two male, one female; the female played by the delicious Kerry Fox) who split the rent on an almost unbelievably spacious apartment and are looking for someone to make it a four-way split. Considering how they verbally abuse and torment everyone who comes to their door to interview for the room, it's obvious they're not really looking all that hard. Eventually, though, they do find the perfect 'flat-mate.' He moves in, locks himself in his room, and then... Well, that would be giving too much away. Highly recommended.
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on February 14, 2002
'Shallow Grave' will surprise you. At first, you might think 'what's all the fuss about', but when the movie starts developing it will steal all of your attention. Only since 'Black Christmas' has a movie captivated me with its sheer eeeriness and scare factor. Shallow Grave is edge of your seat suspense thriller which can be viewed over and over again. Despite it's violence and scare factor, it has some entertaining scenes - black comedy to be precise ... but I promise you one thing - you will love this movie. I dont want to give anything away - just buy it! Note though that the DVD version contains no extras but the movie enough is worth having. the art work on the USA version is much better than the Australian cover.
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