Gramercy Pictures (I) | Release Date: February 10, 1995
8.8
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Universal acclaim based on 115 Ratings
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7
SpangleFeb 15, 2017
Killing and dismembering a person changes people, as does coming into a lot of money in one fortunate stroke of luck. Danny Boyle's directorial debut Shallow Grave explores just how much one changes when a trio of friends stumble a deadKilling and dismembering a person changes people, as does coming into a lot of money in one fortunate stroke of luck. Danny Boyle's directorial debut Shallow Grave explores just how much one changes when a trio of friends stumble a dead roommate and a suitcase full of cash, only to then wind up in the crosshairs of the cops and gangsters that are closing in fast. Driven to insanity, this black comedy crime film features some of Boyle's trademark fast-paced action and music, but does feel like a debut film. It really does not distinguish itself too much from other crime films at the time and is pretty thinly plotted. That said, the film is incredibly entertaining, well acted, and showed incredible promise for Boyle.

The star here though is Christopher Eccleston. A reserved, innocent, and dorky accountant, his David is brilliant. Driven over the edge after he and his friends find the body and the cash, his change is spurred on by being the guy charged with burying and dismembering the body. He is unable to cope with what he has done and the added stress on his psyche, being driven into madness. Holing up in the attic and frightening both Juliet (Kerry Fox) and Alex (Ewan McGregor), Eccleston plays an unhinged psychotic incredibly well. He really steals the show here and provides a performance that anchors the film incredibly well. One could argue that this is another film about average working men revolting against their boring jobs, even if David does find some enjoyment out of being an accountant. However, even his boss says that accountants are boring. Therefore, it is essentially his revolt against the monotonous life he leads as a timid, reserved people. Killing unleashes his wild side and gives him a shot of adrenaline like no other and it is one that is highly addictive.

Alongside him, Ewan McGregor and Kerry Fox turn in good performances as well in the film that is noteworthy for launching McGregor's career. Both are solid as more straight-laced characters compared to the unhinged Eccleston. That said, they both are punished violently for their actions in the film with helping with the burying of the bodies. The two of them really do bring the film back to Earth a bit, but their best scene definitely comes as they become more unhinged as well at the end. Out for themselves, the film reaches a very dark comedic finale with terrifically maniacal acting on the part of Fox and McGregor in the closing sequence. That said, the only part that truly feels like Boyle is the opening. With fast-paced music and the cruelly interviewing potential new flatmates while mocking them openly, the quick cuts and general pace feel like Boyle. It is in this opening that he really found his style and it is a shame to see the rest of the film be far more reserved and less indulgent of the typical kinetic nature of his work. The end result is a film that simply feels less polished and stylish than we have become accustomed to from the British director. But, what he does manage to do incredibly well is make the film feel alive. The material is quite derivative at times, especially when with some influence with the Coen brothers' love of having characters steal or fall into a briefcase of money, only to lose it at the end and nobody gets the money. Boyle's film feels similar at times in that regard as he finds comedy in odd places and makes the derivative plot feel fresh and new. Though we know it is not, Boyle's approach is always compelling and distracts from the predictable nature of the storyline. Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is a good comparison, though less self-indulgent than that film and it does also feel a bit more unpolished and hesitant. This is a by-product of it being Boyle's debut, albeit one that hinted at the great things to come.

A largely quite predictable and derivative black comedy crime film, Shallow Grave has that "familiar-yet-fresh" feel of many 1990s crime films. With terrific acting and good direction, Shallow Grave hits a sweet spot and is richly entertaining, even if its lacks the cohesion needed to be a very good or great film.
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9
MovieMasterEddyApr 2, 2016
Blighty’s new wave of knock-’em-dead filmers has a banner to march under with “Shallow Grave,” a tar-black comedy that zings along on a wave of visual and scripting inventiveness. Film Four Intl. looks set to rack up healthy sales on thisBlighty’s new wave of knock-’em-dead filmers has a banner to march under with “Shallow Grave,” a tar-black comedy that zings along on a wave of visual and scripting inventiveness. Film Four Intl. looks set to rack up healthy sales on this first feature of English TV director Danny Boyle, which will delight buff audiences and has the potential to break out into wider markets, too.

Reaction at its world preem screening in the Cannes market was hot, with many questioning why pic wasn’t in any of the fest’s sections, despite having been submitted for both competition and Directors Fortnight.

Main surprise is that “Grave” manages to sustain its oddball humor and theatrical style without depending on non-stop eye-whacking tricks. First script by Glasgow-based doctor John Hodge (who cameos as a cop) keeps springing surprises until the final shot, and Boyle’s direction, though often hyper, manages to serve up an intelligent movie without sacrificing narrative drive or reducing the actors to characterless pawns.

Story, set in modern-day Scotland, revolves around a trio of unlikely friends sharing a spacious top-floor apartment. Juliet (Kerry Fox) is a seemingly levelheaded nurse, David (Christopher Eccleston) is a studiously boring accountant in a stuffy firmand Alex (Ewan McGregor) is a wild-side journalist on a local rag.

From their first appearance, grilling applicants for a fourth lodger, it’s clear they’ve all got several screws loose. The lodger problem is solved when Juliet takes a shine to the rough-looking, mysterious Hugo (Keith Allen, the psycho in “Beyond Bedlam”), who soon takes up residence. A short time later, Hugo is found dead in bed, his drawer stuffed with drugs and a suitcase stuffed with money.

After shilly-shallying over what to do, the trio decide to chop up the cadaver, bury the bits and keep the loot — a sequence that sets the tone for the pic’s several grisly comic set pieces.

Finale in the apartment is a real tour de force of black humor, with multiple double-crosses and twists up to the final fadeout.

Boyle’s background in theater before moving over to TV (“Inspector Morse”) shows in the pic’s exaggerated but actorly approach. In look and feel, however, this is pure moviemaking, with a seamless blend of production design, music, editing, sound and lensing.

Buffs will note stylistic parallels to the Coen brothers’ early pix, especially “Raising Arizona,” but there’s a trove of others for those wanting to make connections. (Cinephiles can also dine on the fact that producer Andrew Macdonald is related to Emeric Pressburger.)

Playing and casting are strong down the line. Of the central trio, Kiwi actress Fox rates special praise for her disarming portrayal of everyday madness.

Among the tiptop behind-the-camera credits, production designer Kave Quinn’s superb set of the off-center apartment is a constant delight, with its color-coded rooms and its play with light. Reported budget was a mere T1 million ($ 1.5 million), with every cent up on the screen.
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10
TylerDurden900Jul 14, 2014
Shallow Grave is a very well shot and acted movie from British director Danny Boyle. The cast is great
with Ewen Mcgregor from Trainspotting. The plot is very clever and the movie has a nice Hitchcockian
feel to it. The story is
Shallow Grave is a very well shot and acted movie from British director Danny Boyle. The cast is great
with Ewen Mcgregor from Trainspotting. The plot is very clever and the movie has a nice Hitchcockian
feel to it. The story is unpredictable and it will become one of your favourite movies.
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9 of 10 users found this helpful91
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7
StaticSpineMar 27, 2014
First serious movie by Danny Boyle. The actors are good, though the story is mostly predictable. The overall feel is like in other UK criminal-related movies. It was interesting to see the famous director's first full-length movie, but it wasFirst serious movie by Danny Boyle. The actors are good, though the story is mostly predictable. The overall feel is like in other UK criminal-related movies. It was interesting to see the famous director's first full-length movie, but it was not as good as I expected. Expand
1 of 7 users found this helpful16
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10
themozaApr 30, 2011
A slick, clever, well shot thriller. Almost everything about this film works, and works well. Danny Boyle, trés bien! The great sweeping shot that reveals just who was the quickest, is pure genius. Just great
9 of 9 users found this helpful90
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