Shallow Grave
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What happens when you mix narcissism, sadism, and an illicit shortcut to the good life? Danny Boyle tackles that question in his dark comedy-thriller, Shallow Grave. This cult classic explores the behavior of a trio of friends whose bond is their smug brutality toward others. When they face the kind of temptation that could push nice people to break the law, they take it much further, digging themselves deep into their own special kind of hell.

Sociopath reporter Alex (Ewan McGregor), manipulative doctor Juliet (Kerry Fox), and insecure, scheming accountant David (Christopher Eccleston) are young professionals sharing a lovely flat in downtown Glasgow, and theyíve just advertised for a fourth flatmate. But, for them, the process is all about torturing the applicants: itís a denigrating interrogation to make them squirm and determine if theyíre cool enough to be a part of the group. One by one, the prospects are cruelly dismissed.

  
 
But then Hugo (Keith Allen) shows up. An enigmatic loner of an applicant, he out-cools them by his utter lack of interest in their gamesóso heís in. After a few days, they donít hear from him, so they break into his room to find him naked, dead of an overdose, along with a suitcase full of money. But instead of calling the police, they decide to dig a grave, bury his body, and keep the cash. Of course, itís not as easy as it sounds. These three donít like getting their hands dirty, body disposal isnít on any of their resumes, and they definitely donít play nice when thereís money to be divvied up.

Shallow Grave is a darker-than-pitch 1995 comedy/thriller. Thereís really nothing surprising about how this story will end once the plot is set in motion. The genius of this film is its ability to depict the way these three distinctly different, evil characters bounce their pathology off each other, trying to grab what they want while assuring that the ugly stuff rubs off on their partners. Itís potent poison, and itís fascinating to watch.

Toward the end, the stakes get nosebleed-high, the pace becomes rapid-fire, and the violence intense. Unfortunately, at this point in the film, Boyleís previously shrewd portrayal of depravity devolves into the stuff of ordinary cartoonish horror gags. Because of the lack of backstory or moral ambiguity of these characters, ultimately, I didnít much care what happened to them.

Nevertheless, Shallow Grave has a cult following for a reason: itís an intriguing premise with characters you love to hate. I grimaced, gasped, laughed out loud, and shook my head at the close. Itís definitely not for the kids, but if youíre in a mood for a bizarre romp of a psychological thriller with some slapstick and over-the-top violence thrown inówell, this might just do the trick.

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