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Shallow Grave

Year: 1994
Studio: Film Four
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Writer: John Hodge
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox

This is Danny Boyle's American Graffiti to the Star Wars that was Reservoir Dogs to his Jaws. The one only film geeks have seen that came before the world-changing film that made his name and became the shorthand for a movement.

And those who've seen it realise that while Shallow Grave has none of the flashiness or pizzazz of Trainspotting, Boyle's as rock solid as ever in this very dark comedy.

An enduring actor/director relationship was forged between Boyle and Ewan McGregor before Fox talked him into turning his back on the collaboration for the more bankable DiCaprio in The Beach (a film that wasn't worth the trashed friendship).

The then-fresh faced Scot plays journalist Alex who lives a suave bachelor's life with two flatmates, accountant David (Eccleston) and nurse Juliet (Fox). When the trio take in a new flatmate, they soon find him dead but loaded down with so much cash they can be sure somebody's after it. Against their better judgement they decide to chop up and dispose of the body, hide the money and pretend to know nothing.

They have no idea of the storm gathering around them as two bagmen brutally slay several victims in some truly inventive and stomach-churning murders to track the money down, giving the comedy an edge tinged with an affecting sense of doom. When the credits list actors who play 'bath victim', 'freezer victim' and 'cash machine victim', you know you're in for something different.

But the story's more about how their friendships are affected. The bad guys do indeed finally kick the door in and set upon Alex and Juliet before Alex convinces them the money's hidden in the loft.

Minutes later both their dead bodies plummet back to the floor courtesy of David, and we see the theme emerging - just what will money do to people? It's scary enough that mild-mannered David's been turned into a killer, but when he turns seriously unhinged, refusing to come down and spying on his friends through holes he's made in the ceiling, they wonder if they weren't better off with the gangsters.

As things slowly fall apart, twists and double cross form a web from which none of them will escape.

It was the first step in a formidable Film Four-sponsored triumvirate of Boyle the director, Hodge the writer and Macdonald the producer that would give us some of the best films in cinema. This is only the first.

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