Palatable: Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave (1994)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by John Hodge
Produced by Andrew Macdonald, Allan Scott
Starring Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Colin McCredie, Peter Mullan, Leonard O’Malley

“Greed is in: guilt is out.”

–Anonymous, 1987

Applicants of Edinburgh seeking a room let in the ample apartment shared by a journalist (McGregor), a doctor (Fox) and an accountant (Eccleston) are by them subjected to a battery of jocose harassment and irritating interrogation, until a unflappably affable, purported novelist (Allen) impresses them with his sangfroid and a thick wad of bills for deposit and lodging. He perishes not a fortnight into his stay from heroin habituated, leaving his flatmates his corpse, a suitcase packed with cash, and their concomitant millstones: mounting anxiety, an inquirendo conducted by a sardonically subtle detective (Stott), and an eventual visit from a pair of truculent thugs (Mullan, O’Malley) who wouldn’t think to let a few murders come between them and a small, stolen fortune. Still at the crown of their careers — and superior to the wildly overrated Trainspotting — Boyle’s and Hodge’s sharp, spare first feature was smoothly scripted and shot on a small budget to a deservedly warm reception. Pans at every common focal length and a modicum of gimmicky shots are as fun as raillery between the protagonal buddies before and after their relations sour, without ever diverting from terrific performances that propel every scene. One can’t readily imagine anyone better suited severally to play this flick’s queasy creep or obnoxious charmer than Eccleston and McGregor, and Allen quietly steals his few scenes, especially in discourse with Fox, who masterfully balances bitchy jest with glimpses of an underhand frigidity. Unfailingly funny and suspenseful, this umpteenth version of Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale instances how avariciousness and paranoia among some depredates friendships and lives alike.