Plot: A trio of friends has placed an ad for a new roommate, but the search for the perfect new tenant won’t be a simple one. These three have exhaustive interviews, grilling prospective roommates on all kinds of topics, from the usual habits to their knowledge about music. The search seems to be fruitless, as no one is up to their high standards, but soon an acceptable option arrives in Hugo (Keith Allen), an author who seems like a good fit. But soon after he moves in, he is discovered nude and dead, with a massive stockpile of cash near his corpse. The cash is too much to resist, so the three friends dismember and bury the dead body, so that they can share the cache and live a little of the good life. This leads to some impulsive fun, as well as guilt, greed, and paranoia, not to mention the violent criminals who are on the hunt for Hugo and his bundle of cash.
Entertainment Value: Shallow Grave has softened over the years, but remains a solid thriller with some terrific dialogue and good performances. The movie wasn’t really pitch black when it was first released, but a couple decades later, the dark humor seems almost quaint at times. I still think the movie has a good sense of humor, but it is more dry than withering, however. I also wish there was a little more to the narrative, as what little twists and turns are present feel rather flat. I can appreciate the simplicity and straight forward approach as well, but I think Shallow Grave could have used a clever twist or two. The narrative is interesting, however predictable it might be and while the characters don’t have much depth, they’re still fun to watch. This is due in part to the skilled cast involved, but also the dialogue, which is one of the movie’s strongest traits and really carries the picture. I also think Shallow Grave has some great visual design elements, so while it is rather dated in most ways, there is more than enough that still works to recommend this thriller.
This movie launched the careers of several folks involved, not the least of which is director Danny Boyle, who would go on to directs Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and the acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire. Ewan McGregor would garner a lot of praise for his work here and while Trainspotting was his rocket to ride to stardom, that talent is more than evident in Shallow Grave. He has a great energy in this one and brings some real enthusiasm, even to routine moments. That upbeat, kinetic presence plays well and contrasts nicely with Christopher Eccleston’s more internalized effort. There are hints at deep, brewing emotions in this performance here, but his role is mostly subtle, though an important element in the mix. Kerry Fox also has a prominent role and she is quite good as well, especially in her interactions with McGregor. The cast also includes Keith Allen, Peter Mullan, and Colin McCredie.