On the DVD: Although presented in widescreen anamorphic format, both picture and sound are not much better than an average video playback. Add a static menu and just one trailer and this release will probably disappoint today's DVD collector. --Paul Tonks
In fact, Hugo (Keith Allen) talks to only Juliet before he makes it to a dinner with the boys, where Alex wants to know if Hugo can pay for the flat (a large wad of bills suggests that he can) and David just wants to know if Hugo has ever killed a man (Hugo lies on this point). These answers are sufficient for him to move in, although Hugo is clearly a bit older than they are and is not as amused by the trio's wit as they are. However, the next morning Hugo is lying naked and dead in the red bed, the victim of an overdose. Alex immediately starts checking out everything that Hugo left behind, apparently never thinking that the police might want to take a look at things first. Just as Juliet is about to report the corpse, Alex finds the proverbial suitcase filled with cash. Immediately, Juliet and the boys are reviewing the situation.
The key to keeping the money becomes eliminating Hugo's body and the title of the film gives you an indication of how the trio plan to accomplish that particular task, although Alex knows enough about how bodies are identified to suggest a few surgical procedures to go along with the burial. This requires the purchasing of necessary supplies, a trip into the forest, the drawing of a short straw, and then returning to the flat to endure the questions of Detective Inspector McCall (Ken Stott), who seems to think there should be four people living there. However, the trio have another problem, in that all that cash apparently did not really belong to Hugo either, and there are a couple of blokes looking for it, and therefore, for them as well.
The three flat mates are eccentric enough for us to be entertained by the way they treat most of the other human beings that they come into contact with, but when Alex makes a point of going to far with his treatment of poor Cameron (Colin McGredie), one of the failed applicants from the film's opening sequence, and Cameron offers a pointed rejoinder with the toe of his boot, we readily admit Alex deserves it. This becomes an important part of the dynamic for "Shallow Grave," because while we certainly expect the bad guys to get their hands on the three flat mates before the police can put everything together, we do not expect the sharp turn the film takes at that point.
These characters are entertaining, but they are not sympathetic, so in watching how this one plays out we do not really have a rooting interest in which, if any of them, get out of this film alive. Although I know it came out four years later, "A Simple Plan" tells a similar story but with much more sympathetic characters. The question is the same: if a whole lot of money fell into your lap, how far would you go to keep it? Of course such narratives beg the question as to whether you should or not, because the drama, and the attendant horror, comes from how far people will go.
The other thing that "Shallow Grave" reminds me about is the bit from one of Bill Cosby's routine where he is talking about people doing cocaine. Cosby explains that people have told him that cocaine enhances things so that you become more of what you were and his rejoinder is, "But what is you are an a**hole?" That question is a totally legitimate one to ask with regards to this story line because these are not good people, and when they are put in a bad situation that becomes increasingly worse, it is not like there are any angels representing their better natures. This one gets pretty bad and if you want another cinematic reference tossed at you then think of the three way gun fight at the end of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."
Just do not be distracted by the sarcastic wit of the principles into thinking that they are good people or that this is a comedy. The "funny" stuff is all relative and just because you laugh at what people say is no reason to make the leap to thinking they are good people. Besides, the director is Danny Boyle, known for both "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later," so you knew this 1994 was not going to be morally uplifting. This is just another example nice little example of bad people doing bad things to each other. Just because you call someone your friend, does not mean that they really are in any and all circumstances.
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