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Paul Brannigan
John Henshaw
Gary Maitland
Roger Allam.
Ken Loach.
Paul Laverty.
Running Time
101 minutes

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The Angels' Share
Local Anti-Hero

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While doing community service, Glaswegian young offender Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is mentored by a whisky-loving social worker (John Henshaw) and discovers he has a nose for fine malts. Worried that he is trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence, Robbie sees a way to make a fortune with a whisky-related crime.

The Angels' Share
Though known for social realism and political anger, throughout his career Ken Loach has occasionally shown a whimsical, Ealing comedy streak. This is a film of two halves, with a slightly wonky join in the middle, representing both aspects of Loach’s cinema. The change of tack leaves some of its threads up in the air and asks audiences to bear with a protagonist who is set up as a conflicted, desperate-to-change NED and never quite becomes likable enough to carry off a comedy caper.

Trapped by his short-fuse temper and unable to get away from a life of random hooliganism and street feuds, Paul Brannigan’s Robbie seethes through excruciating, believable early scenes. A court-ordered encounter with a half-blind former victim and his still-angry family is horribly credible, as is a talking-to from the grandfather of his child who predicts that even if Robbie wants to change, he won’t be allowed to by his enemies and friends alike and should just get out of the city before it’s too late. This material is so strong that it’s disorienting when the issues raised are set aside so the film can get on with breezier, funnier business as Robbie and an ill-assorted crew of fellow community service offenders set out to heist a fabulously valuable cask of aged malt whisky and set themselves up for life.

Sometimes, the film goes too easy on its hero: his girlfriend (Siobhan Reilly) is an idealised emblem of the fulfilled family life he doesn’t think he deserves and seems awfully milk-and-water for the daughter of a gangster hardman, while the notion that the only escape from petty violent crime is colossal if harmless crime would play better in a film that didn’t deliver such a convincing depiction of the real consequences of being an angry, obnoxious thug.

With spot-on supporting performances from Gary Maitland as the dimmest of the crooks (who still has one blindingly brilliant idea about an appropriate disguise for Glaswegians in the Highlands) and Roger Allam as a smooth operator in the illicit collectors’ booze market, and a nice selection of absurdist or deadpan gags (including one Jackass-style gross-out you wouldn’t expect from Loach), this has something of the feel of early Bill Forsyth.

Like good whisky, Loach is mellowing and becoming subtler with age — though a swift chug still has a bit of a kick.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Angels' Share
Empire Star Rating

Laced with humour

A delightful surprise, this finds Ken Loach in laid-back, gentle form in what can probably best be described as a whisky-laced mix of “The Full Monty” and “Ocean’s 11”. Not that Loach is shirking on the social realism – the film opens with a young man finding himself sentenced to community service. But as our “hero” Robbie finds his feet and takes on some responsibility, the film takes on a looser, more affable feel, ultimately becoming really char... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RJNeb2 at 08:50, 28 July 2014 | Report This Post

RE: The Angels' Share

Much like a stiff drink at the end of a long day, "The Angels' Share" gets the job done, but you're probably not going to remember it in the morning. ... More

Posted by chang at 12:22, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post

RE: The Angels' Share

Watched this last night and really enjoyed it. Well worth a watch. ... More

Posted by galvatron at 10:34, 08 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: The Angels' Share

Think Joey Barton with an impenetrable Glasgae accent and that is Robbie. I don't usually go for Ken Loach, but I really enjoyed this film, as it did that thing all really good films do; got better as it went along. Superb acting from all the characters, I especially liked ' The Impressive Toastmaster'. ... More

Posted by GCH at 09:51, 10 January 2013 | Report This Post

No mention of John Henshaw's work here?

He's one of the great unsung heroes of British acting imho. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rosskies at 09:51, 25 September 2012 | Report This Post

No mention of John Henshaw's work here?

He's one of the great unsung heroes of British acting imho. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rosskies at 09:51, 25 September 2012 | Report This Post

RE: The Angels' Share

Double post. Deleted. ... More

Posted by thedrin at 20:32, 12 June 2012 | Report This Post

RE: The Angels' Share

Aside from the change of tone a bit over half way through - it's not jarring but it's not smooth either - I really liked this film, and I've been in a really good mood since I left the cinema about 7 hours ago. Recommended. ... More

Posted by thedrin at 20:31, 12 June 2012 | Report This Post

RE: The Angels' Share

A real crowd-pleaser of a film which despite suffering from the odd plot contrivance (our protagonist is spared the prospect of a ned ambush thanks to a conveniently timed vehicle intervention by his other half's father), it ultimately succeeds because of Loach's masterful quality in delivering characters & performances you completely believe in & emphasise with. In some ways, it shares a lot with the Dardennes' With A Bike sense of a troubled young individual being dragged back from the clutc... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:39, 03 June 2012 | Report This Post

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