The Angels' Share
Directed by Ken Loach
Director Ken Loach is a master—and, indeed, that appraisal necessitates seeing his films less as the works of a formal auteur (fancy camerawork, repeat casting, over-personal soundtracking) and more as those of an enraged political activist. On paper, his latest is a cornpone salt-of-the-earth yarn about getting even with a society that doesn’t hand out second chances; instead, Loach delivers a remarkably tough comedy whose politics don’t get in the way of its telling.
After being sentenced to community service, Robbie (Paul Brannigan) realizes he needs to start a new life for himself and his pregnant girlfriend (Siobhan Reilly). While she’s in labor, he’s getting whooped by her uncles; their son is born while he’s hiding out at his mentor’s house. After a trip to an Edinburgh distillery with a few other community service pals—including a foul-mouthed pickpocket (Jasmin Riggins) and a serial moron (Gary Maitland)—Robbie hatches a plan to bootleg what is more or less the rarest whiskey in Scotland.
What ensues is probably, in fact, as close to a folksy hybrid between Kes and Ocean’s Eleven as we’re ever likely to get. Loach’s unpretentious, termite-artist style keeps every scene from leaden repetition, but the jokes never come too easy. Every character contributes a different angle of blue-collar life to the get-rich-quick plotline, but their own foibles and prejudices stand just as much a risk as the cops’. Alliances are uneasy, the laughs are hard-earned, and the tense scenes are genuinely unpleasant. In a crucial moment that’s equally uproarious and devastating, Maitland’s character throws a narrative curveball less out of buffoonery than indignation; as the oppressed, Robbie’s crew first have to get past themselves before they can properly avenge the humiliation doled out by the state.
Opens April 12