Shallow Grave

Movie Information

Shallow Grave, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, March 27, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
Genre: Black Comedy/Thriller
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ken Stott, Keith Allen
Rated: R

Notable as the debut feature film of Danny Boyle and the movie that put both him and Ewan McGregor into the moviegoing consciousness, Shallow Grave (1994) is also a textbook for what to do with a debut feature. Regardless of how one feels about the film—in some ways, the movie is as shallow as the grave of the title—there’s no denying that it’s absolutely brilliant as a cinematic calling card. The script is bitterly funny and hip. The story line is cleverly constructed. The camerawork and editing are stylish and flashy. And Boyle demonstrates his sense of being both hip and knowledgeable with a soundtrack that includes songs by Leftfield (exponents of then-big “progressive house music”) and a jazzy Nina Simone cover of Eddie Cantor’s 1930s hit “My Baby Just Cares for Me.” (Andy Williams singing “Happy Heart” shows Boyle is also conscious of kitsch.) It’s brilliant in that the viewer will not soon forget the experience.

The story itself is surprisingly lacking in the kind of humanity that permeates Boyle’s other work. But it’s fascinating for that very fact, because it shows off his innate sense of style with little thematic distraction. It’s a showcase work. The premise has three not very likable—but oh-so-hip—Glaswegian flatmates (McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston) who, after abusing a variety of prospects for a fourth tenant, accept a rather creepy gent. The gent promptly expires, leaving behind a large bag of money. Not surprisingly, the money isn’t exactly legal. Equally unsurprising, greed gets the better of the three, leading to danger, illegal activities (including murder), duplicity and even madness. Is it inspired by the Coens’ Blood Simple (1984)? Almost certainly, but Shallow Grave has a style and a vibe all its own.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.