The Angels' Share (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner31/05/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 101 mins

Ken Loach goes full-on feel-good with this enjoyable, rough-edged and well acted comedy drama that's by turns moving, suspenseful and laugh-out-loud funny.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ken Loach, The Angels' Share stars Paul Brannigan as Robbie, a violent Glasgow youth who's made several local enemies, not least of which are the savage brothers of his pregnant girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly). Vowing to turn his life around for the sake of both Leonie and the baby, Robbie embarks on a sentence of community payback and is befriended by his kindly supervisor Harry (John Henshaw), who opens his eyes to the joys of whisky tasting.

When Harry takes Paul and a group of fellow young offenders – including kleptomaniac Mo (Jasmin Riggins), lanky ginger Rhino (William Ruane) and the preternaturally stupid Albert (Gary Maitland) – on a visit to a local whisky distillery, Paul turns out to have something of a gift for whisky tasting. And when he meets shady whisky broker Thaddeus (Roger Allam), he hatches an idea for a potentially lucrative heist involving an extremely rare cask of the traditional Scottish spirit.

The Good
Newcomer Brannigan is excellent as Robbie, and Loach and scriptwriter Paul Laverty are careful to show exactly how high the stakes are for his character by giving us a flashback to him at his absolute worst, so that we know both how far he's come in an attempt to rehabilitate himself and the potential danger, should he revert to his old life. There's also strong comic support from Riggins, Ruane and Maitland, while Henshaw contributes a warm-hearted, immensely likeable turn as Harry.

The script has an endearingly rough-edged feel to it, but Loach handles the shifts in tone well, encompassing hard-hitting social drama (the scene where Robbie confronts the victim of a violent assault he committed is extremely moving), broad comedy and, in the case of the heist sequence, genuine suspense. On top of that, the naturalistic dialogue is frequently very funny and Loach gets strong use out of some authentic Scottish locations.

The Great
There's something strangely intoxicating about seeing a character on screen prove unexpectedly good at something (see also Billy Caspar, who discovers his inner kestrel-trainer in Loach's wonderful debut Kes) and the scenes where Robbie discovers his “nose” are weirdly thrilling. However, this backfires slightly because the heist involves Robbie having to do something that should horrify him, given his newfound appreciation for whisky, but he does it without a flicker of hesitation or remorse (despite the act provoking gasps from the audience).

Worth seeing?
Though it takes some time to adjust to the fact that Ken Loach has made an unabashed feel-good movie, The Angels’ Share is an enjoyable, well written and superbly acted comedy drama that's well worth seeking out.

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The Angels' Share (15)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 06:55

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