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Movie review: ‘The Angels’ Share’

Posted 12:58pm on Thursday, May. 02, 2013

Unrated (strong language, violence): 106 min.

At first glance, The Angels’ Share seems to indicate that the collaborations of British director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty are pivoting onto a more lighthearted path after such sobering dramas as The Wind That Shakes the Barley. But despite its ultimate sense of optimism, the Glasgow-set dramedy nevertheless carries a sense of foreboding.

And yet, that might not have been the intention.

The Angels’ Share is a bit of a shape-shifter. The film opens with laughs as a docket of petty criminals is sentenced to community service. The mood rapidly darkens with the tale of another criminal, Robbie (Paul Brannigan). Caught in an intergenerational feud with another family, Robbie can’t seem to escape a cycle of violence that repeatedly lands him in front of a judge. But when his girlfriend gives birth to their son, Robbie vows to change.

Robbie has an impressive sniffer for discerning spirits, and before long he’s listening to experts discuss beverages that have a “maritime nose” and “a smoky finish.” His newfound talent leads to an idea for a heist for which he recruits some of the thieves and troublemakers who appeared during the film’s first minutes.

At this point, the mood again lightens, transforming into an almost farcical comedy with a bit of gross-out humor and a running gag about the epic idiocy of one of Robbie’s accomplices.

Yet the aesthetic remains true to Loach’s realism. Grittiness prevails, and every scene seems to unfold under a blanket of clouds.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas

— Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post

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