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Angels' Share, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Raise Your Glass"
3 stars

Ken Loach is a British filmmaker renowned throughout the world for a series of harsh and unsparing cinematic depictions of social injustice and the plight of the working class, including such acclaimed works as "Riff-Raff" (1991), "Ladybird Ladybird" (1996), "My Name is Joe" (1998) and "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" (2006). At first glance, his latest film, "The Angel's Share," appears to be in that same vein by setting up a story in which a young working-class man attempts to break the cycle of poverty and violence that has nearly destroyed his life before the same fate can befall his newborn son. However, it soon takes a bizarre turn for the whimsical and transforms into an oddball blend of "The Full Monty," "Trainspottting" and any number of silly caper comedies that you or I could name.

As the story opens, Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is at a low point in his young life--his violent tendencies have led his arrest and near-incarceration for brutally beating a complete stranger for no good reason, his girlfriend's family is going to extraordinary lengths to keep him from seeing her or their newborn child and he cannot find a job. Sentenced to community service, he is befriended by his supervisor (John Henshaw), a gentle soul who even goes so far as to take his entire crew on a trip to a local whisky distillery on his day off as a sort of field trip. As a result, Robbie unexpectedly discovers that he possesses an hitherto unknown ability to recognize and appreciate high-quality single-malt whiskies and this in turn leads to him and a few friends hatching a reasonably elaborate plot to steal a couple of bottles worth of extremely valuable whisky from a rare cask in order to sell to a private collector for enough money to set them up for good.

Walking into the screening of "The Angel's Share," I knew nothing about it other than the fact that it was directed by Loach, a filmmaker whose works I have admired even if they are not exactly the kind of thing I would immediately choose to watch while relaxing at the end of a long day. At first, it seemed virtually indistinguishable from most of his other films--right down to the working-class milieu and accents so thick that the entire film is subtitled despite technically being in English--and looked to be a solid if unsurprising entry in his filmography. Then it made its sudden switch to a more happy-go-lucky style of filmmaking and I must confess that the change of narrative gears threw me for the kind of loop that took a long time from which to recover. There is nothing particularly wrong with the results and I am all for allowing a filmmaker the chance to branch off into different areas of storytelling but I am still at a loss to understand why he would choose a tale this resolutely innocuous to make such a radical switch. By largely subsuming his own innate gifts, he has come up with the first film of his career that I can recall that could have easily been directed by practically anyone else in the British Director's Guild without much in the way of any appreciable difference.

On the whole, however, "The Angel's Share" is a well-meaning and occasionally rude film that contains some nicely low-key performances, a couple of big laughs here and there and a few moments of genuine emotion to boot and those with a taste for quirky comedy-dramas from the U.K. will probably want to check it out for themselves.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23752&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/26/13 11:25:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2012 Festival de Cannes series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 European Union Film Festival For more in the 16th Annual European Union Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Sarasota Film Festival For more in the 2013 Sarasota Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  12-Apr-2013 (NR)
  DVD: 10-Dec-2013

UK
  N/A

Australia
  12-Apr-2013
  DVD: 13-Aug-2013


Directed by
  Ken Loach

Written by
  Paul Laverty

Cast
  Roger Allam
  John Henshaw
  William Ruane
  Lorne MacFadyen
  Paul Brannigan
  David Goodall



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