The Angels’ Share
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The ex-con who’s struggling to reform is a pretty standard character in film. Typically, these cinematic underdogs face hardship and temptation, with varying results. Often, they turn to alcohol—but not in the way that the main character does in director Ken Loach’s dramedy, The Angels’ Share.

Robbie (Paul Brannigan) has spent his life in and out of custody—but now he’s determined to make a change. After he lucks out by receiving just a community service sentence for his latest offense, the new dad vows to be there for his girlfriend, Leonie (Siobhan Reilly), and their son—no matter what. Robbie soon learns, though, that keeping his promise won’t be easy. Because of his record, he can’t get a job—which means that he can’t support his new family.

Then, one day, Robbie discovers whisky, and his newfound interest leads to the discovery of a priceless barrel that’s about to go up for auction. Robbie’s friends see it as the perfect opportunity—one simple heist that will help them make ends meet—but Robbie sees it as a risk that could tear him away from his family.

The characters in The Angels’ Share are really nothing new. Films often follow life-long criminals on their quest to change their ways. We all know that it’s challenging—and frustrating. We also know that the story tends to go in one of two directions: the good one or the bad one. But The Angels’ Share doesn’t tell the same old story—and Robbie and his friends aren’t the same old ex-cons. They’re an interesting band of misfits who seem to have simply stumbled into their lives of crime. Robbie is trapped in his father’s life-long feud. His friend, Mo (Jasmin Riggins), is a fun-loving scamp who just can’t seem to help herself. And Albert (Gary Maitland), well…he’s just an idiot. Though most of the characters simply survive in the background, though, Robbie is the kind of character that you can’t help but love—and you’ll keep cheering him on, hoping that his story will have a happy ending.

The problem, then, is with the direction that his story takes. Robbie definitely struggles on his road to rehabilitation, struggling to rein in his temper and start a new life—and he’s such a charming character that you’ll want him to succeed. You won’t want him to pull just one little heist to get by; you’ll want him to make a clean break. So when he willingly sets out to risk his freedom and his family for the possibility of some quick cash, he loses a little bit of his charm—and he’ll most likely lose your respect, too. Sure, his intentions are good, but the ends don’t necessarily justify the means.

It certainly offers an unusual new twist on the same old ex-con movie—and, for that, this Scottish caper and its lovable characters deserve a look. But the story’s direction may have you cringing instead of cheering.

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