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The Angels’ Share

October 14, 2013

The Angels’ Share (2012)
Director: Ken Loach
Actors: Paul Brannigan, William Ruane, Gary Maitland

angels share

Synopsis: Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a young man with a violent past, teams up with other troubled characters from his Community Service group, to vicariously apprehend some priceless whisky from a distillery up in the Highlands.

Review: At its best, The Angels’ Share really conjures the spirit of the Ealing Comedies – and that’s not just through its superficial link to Whisky Galore but to the Ealing brand in its entirety, with its playfulness of spirit and generosity toward its characters (even though most of them are embarking on what are technically criminal endeavours).

The second half of The Angels’ Share in particular moves along with such a brisk charm and confidence as the four friends’ caper takes them off to a distant distillery in the upper reaches of Scotland. The sequence where Robbie pinches four bottles of the special whisky could rival anything Hollywood offers in terms of tautness of action, and the friends’ run-in with the police has a laugh-out loud and unexpected climax – but somehow honouring the buffoonish charm of one of its characters.

The first half of the film that sketches in its main characters and gives context to their whisky heist is a touch more hackneyed and unconvincing. Though Loach offers a clever introduction to the characters with a judicial voiceover that recounts their respective criminal offences, he gives his central character Robbie too much baggage and backstory. While there’s a quietly affecting scene of Robbie meeting the victim of one of his drug-fuelled, violent rampages (cleverly causing us to question our identification with the film’s ostensible hero), that really should be sufficient in imprinting that Robbie has had a wretched past and desperately wants to change. He’s also saddled however with other plot hooks: he’s the father of a newborn son, the dad of his girlfriend is trying to buy him off, and he’s terrorised by a gang of cipher-like Glasgow thugs – all of which are dropped and never really scrutinised again once the whisky lark commences. (October 2013)

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