Shallow Grave (1994) Directed by Danny Boyle. With Kerry Fox, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston.
I’m struggling to think of a film that looks and sounds more 1990’s than Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave. Between Ewan McGregor’s Def Leppard haircut, some painfully awful techno and the insistence of tucking everything into your jeans, there’s a little gem of a film hiding away. This is pre-Trainspotting Boyle, a year before everyone sat-up and got excited about this talented young Lancashire-born film maker. The rest is cinematic history.
Of course, those who know their stuff will be fully aware that Boyle was cutting his teeth in television years before his first directorial feature offering. To an extent, Shallow Grave has the feel of a film made for television (it was funded by Channel 4), with its low budget and simple locations. That isn’t to say, however, that it is any less of a film for its paired down aesthetic. The contrary, Boyle makes the most of what he has and uses it to his advantage. He presents us with the simple, identifiable twenty-somethings – caught up in a situation way over their heads; forced to adapt and survive when they encounter a situation that tempts them into taking drastic action for their own selfish gain. That’s the plot, by the way.
Of the three central characters, Ewan McGregor was clearly born to be a star. Under Boyle’s direction, and even though his character is a bit of a tit, the actor emerges as a confident screen presence, with an agreeable wit and flashes of Scottish charm.
Much like Trainspotting, there is a basic central theme revolving around a bag of loot, and the dividing power it possesses, even on a solid friendship. Beyond that, though, it is also a dark and, at times, creepy drama-thriller. The underbelly of gangland crime coming home to roost provides a certain amount of horror – even more so with the realisation of some wince-worthy moments of graphic violence. It also deals with the effect that being exposed to such extremes can have on an otherwise everyday person, as we witness Christopher Eccleston running the gamut of emotional responses. With back-stabbing and double-dealing high on the menu, Shallow Grave is worth going back and digging up. 3.5/5