Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave

USA, 1994. Rated R. 93 minutes.

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Colin McCredie
Writer: John Hodge
Original music: Simon Boswell
Cinematography: Brian Tofano
Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Director: Danny Boyle


Grade: A- Review by Frances Nicole Rogers

S hallow Grave, the 1994 directorial debut of Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later), is a darkly humorous tale concerning three Scottish flat mates and a dead man's money. At the opening of the film, the three—journalist Alex Law (Ewan McGregor), accountant David Stephens (Christopher Eccleston), and doctor Juliet Miller (Kerry Fox)—are looking for a fourth, in a search that reveals the central heroes as anything but. They are rude and narcissistic hipsters, ready to reject and mock anyone who doesn't fit their definition of cool. In time comes Hugo (Keith Allen), a man worthy enough to be their fourth flat mate. Very soon after moving in, Hugo is found dead in his room.

Shocked and curious, the three investigate his room. Alex, being reckless, uncovers a suitcase underneath Hugo's bed—a suitcase that contains more money than the three have ever seen. Alex, David, and Juliet do what any normal person would do in such a situation. They bury the corpse in the forest and run off with the money. But—there is always a "but" in situations like these—there are men looking for Hugo, and Hugo's corpse might not be as well-hidden as the three flat mates think.

If you happen to be an Ewan McGregor fan who has made the horrible mistake of watching Nightwatch, Shallow Grave is an ideal antidote, though both Nightwatch and Shallow Grave share similar flaws. Both are clichéd suspense thrillers, both have unsympathetic characters, and both are predictable. Nightwatch did not work, however, because its plot required a sympathetic character. Shallow Grave critiques its characters to the end.

The term "wickedly funny" has been overused to describe many films that do not deserve the compliment. Shallow Grave does live up to the phrase with its dark humor, played to perfection by McGregor, whose extremely juvenile character has many of the film's most hilarious lines. McGregor is not the only excellent performer in Shallow Grave, though. Christopher Eccleston gives a underplayed performance as David, making his otherwise nerdy character more intimidating as the film progresses. He never overacts, as McGregor often does.

Danny Boyle's direction is decent, but he does not show visual mastery. What he has here is a nice set-up for some of the amazing images of his next film, Trainspotting.

Review © October 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.

  Comment on this review on the boards  

  Official site
  IMDb page
  MRQE page
  Rotten Tomatoes page