DVD Releases: ‘The Brit Indie Collection’

Probably the best value Blu-ray released for a long while, The Brit Indie Collection contains four of the best British films of the 1990’s/early 2000’s. Two are Danny Boyle’s initial films, Trainspotting (1996) and Shallow Grave (1994), and both are brilliant pieces of work.

Although most remember Trainspotting as the first “The British are coming!” movies of the end of the century, it was Shallow Grave which brought together the trinity of director Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald and writer John Hodge.

Shallow Grave is a full-blooded psychological black comedy following three flatmates tackling the ‘would you/wouldn’t you?’ situation of what to do with a suitcase of money and its recently deceased owner. Ewan McGregor and Kerry Fox are spunky and youthful, whilst Christopher Ecclestone makes an intense move from stuffy nerd to roof-dwelling maniac, drilling holes in the ceiling to view his flatmates/mortal enemies. Extra features include the enlightening ‘Digging Your Own Grave’ documentary about the stressful production of making such a film on a shoestring budget.

There’s little more to add about Trainspotting than has already been said in the last 15 years. Yes, Ewan McGregor has probably never been better. Yes, the soundtrack is brilliantly chosen (as was Shallow Grave’s). And yes, if all films were made with a tenth of the energy and charisma with which Boyle inject through his direction, then the world would be a better place. I can’t think of anything else to add at this stage, other than to urge anyone who hasn’t seen the film to buy it as soon as they possibly can. An intelligent and superbly – if, in retrospect, unfortunately – marketed picture about youth, greed, addiction, companionship and maturity, it never becomes didactic about drug use and is a far more manageable piece of work than Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000).

Sexy Beast (2000) is probably best known for being music video and ad director Jonathan Glazer’s first big-screen work, and for Ben Kingsley’s cracked crime figure Don Logan. The film is well directed and Kingsley’s performance is hysterically psychotic, standing on the ‘Coen-esque’ line between being terrifying and farcical. Beyond this, Ray Winstone is on good form as “Gal” Dove, the super-tanned safe-cracker Logan tries to coerce into doing “one last job” – though Winstone is not quite as assured as he is in 44 Inch Chest (2009), written by the same writing pair of Louis Mellis and David Scinto. Ian McShane is reliably smooth and wry, and this mini-epic is directed with restrained style and subtlety. A moment of respite after the pulsating Boyle movies.
Finally, and from Mellis and Scinto again (though due to production arguments, not often remembered as part of their oeuvre) is Paul McGuigan’s Gangster No.1 (2000), an underrated and unremembered crime thriller far from the wannabe “Guns’n’Geezers” balls-ups with which Guy Ritchie has made his name. Malcolm McDowell, one of Britain’s finest film actors, is on top form as the ageing, titular Gangster, alongside a brooding and ominous Paul Bettany. Paul McGuigan directs with real verve and style, and stays just on the right side of ‘look at me’ showiness. Harshly violent, well written and powerfully performed (look out also for the reliable Eddie Marsan, David Thewlis and Jamie Foreman), this is a film which deserves to be rediscovered as soon as possible.
Stephen Glass