Shallow Grave * * * * 1/2
Director: Danny Boyle.
Screenplay: John Hodge.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, Keith Allen, Ken Stott, Colin McCredie, Peter Mullan, Gary Lewis, Tony Curran, John Hodge.
Before moving on to work with such lucrative film stars as Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Beach” or reaching the Oscar winning heights of “Slumdog Millionaire“, director Danny Boyle cut his teeth on this low-budget Scottish crime thriller – which still remains one of his finest films to this day.
Juliet (Kerry Fox), David (Christopher Eccleston) and Alex (Ewan McGregor) are a sardonic trio of roommates in Edinburgh, who take in enigmatic lodger Hugo (Keith Allen). When they find him dead, and a suitcase full of money in his possession, their worst instincts rise to the surface and involve them in a snowballing scheme to keep the cash.
A tightly constructed Hitchcockian thriller that with a shoestring budget only serves to force the hand of the talented cast and crew. The script by John Hodge is vice-like, the music by Simon Boswell is perfectly pitched and Danny Boyle’s direction is flawless. The performances from the three leads are also entirely convincing; Kerry Fox delivers a reserved and competent turn but she is overshadowed by an excellent Christopher Eccleston who, with ease, goes from mild mannered to dangerously psychotic. As good as Eccleston is, I would love to have seen Robert Carlyle’s take on it (a role which was offered to him originally). The real heart and fun of the film though, is an irritating and energetic Ewan McGregor in his breakout role. With these committed and highly believable performances we are allowed to invest in the characters and the predicament they find themselves in. Identifying with the trio is the films hook and it works a treat. Of course, Boyle and Hodge know this and it’s not long before they have the audience eating out of their hands, wringing out every bit of suspense they can.
The budget may be low but it doesn’t matter because everything else is in place. It has tension in spades and effortlessly shifts from black comedy to dark thriller. It’s reminiscent of early Coen Brothers and their achievements in “Blood Simple“. Also, like that film, it’s so good on such a cheap budget that it’s a crime in itself.