DVD review: It started with a 'Shallow Grave'

Back in 1994 — long before his modest commercial success with “28 Days Later...” and his Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire” — director Danny Boyle made the transition from TV to movies with “Shallow Grave.” John Hodge's clever script was designed for a relatively low budget: The action transpires almost entirely in one location and (for the most part) involves only three actors ... three really good actors.

Kerry Fox was the best known at the time, based on her performance in Jane Campion's “An Angel at My Table.” Christopher Eccleston had been noticed in Peter Medak's 1991 “Let Him Have It.” And the third star, making his film debut, is a baby-faced (almost unrecognizable at first) Ewan McGregor. (In his commentary, Boyle points out that the cast had two future masters of the universe — Obi-Wan Kenobi and Dr. Who.)

They play friends living in what must be the biggest, most beautiful apartment in Edinburgh, who take on a fourth roommate. In no time, he dies, leaving a suitcase full of money. The three cover up the death and keep the money, but soon they're at each other's throats with distrust and paranoia. In essence, it's “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” with yuppies.

Criterion's new Blu-ray has a crisp new transfer, accompanied by two excellent commentary tracks — one by Boyle, the other by Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald. There's about a half-hour of recent interviews with the actors and an eight-minute video diary as they try to raise money at Cannes. Most substantial is “Digging Your Own Grave,” a 1994 “making of” short, directed by MacDonald's brother Kevin, who went on to direct “The Last King of Scotland.”

"Shallow Grave" (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, $29.95)
ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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