Review: The Angels’ Share

Lizzy Donnelly 4 July 2012

The Angels’ Share

Ken Loach, 15, 101 mins


The first hour of The Angels’ Share is Ken Loach at his most recognisable, leading you down the blood-spattered path of stark social realism and urban suffering. Protagonist Robbie is a young lad trapped in a world of violent crime, recently sentenced to 300 hours of community service in his home city of Glasgow, and determined to make a better life for himself and his newborn son.

Don’t let the trailers fool you: this is not a happy-clappy farce centred on kilt jokes and Irn-Bru banter. It’s dark, and at times painfully realistic. The use of a narrow camera lens maintains the impression of a human field of vision – we are inserted into the drama as short-distance onlookers, compelled to judge whether someone who caused so much anguish for innocent people should be allowed a second chance.

As it turns out, whiskey is to be that second chance. Not the swig-and-spit Texan saloon kind, however. Hearing reports about the discovery of a rare, extremely valuable barrel of whiskey, Robbie and his crooked chums set off for the Highland distillery, intending to pull off one hell of a heist. This switch from urban realism to rustic misdemeanour may prove a little too sudden for some. However, for all that the characters’ plan is ambitious, it does not become ridiculous. Paul Brannigan is superb as the unlikely ring-leader, whilst Gary Maitland steals many a scene as a lad who’s not quite the full shilling. There is a warmth to this film that you won’t find in some of Loach’s other works. The humour is spot-on, and the whiskey escapade is as intense as bits of The Great Escape. It might feel a little jerky in its scope, but The Angels’ Share is still well worth a trip to the pictures.

Lizzy Donnelly