03/19/2013 01:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Popcorn Preview: The Angels' Share

Film: The Angels' Share (2012)
Cast includes: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw (Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974), Siobhan Reilly (Book of Blood), Roger Allam (The Queen)
Writer: Paul Laverty (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Sweet Sixteen)
Director: Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Sweet Sixteen)
Genre: Drama | Comedy | Crime Caper (101 minutes) Scottish accented English with subtitles

From a security camera monitor, a safety officer 20 miles away observes a very drunk Albert, tottering dangerously close to the edge of the railroad platform. "Stand back!" Where did that voice come from? "You heard me. Stand back. There's a train coming." Albert is still puzzled about where the voice is coming from. "This is God! Move it, you fucking asshole! Or you're gonna die!!!" Albert doesn't die but is later sentenced to 18 hours of "community payback" by the Glasgow judge. The courtroom is full of other miscreants convicted of drunkenness and rowdy behavior... they all get sentences of community payback. But Robby's case is different. He's convicted of fighting... albeit provoked... with one of Clancy's guys and inflicting serious injuries. But since Robbie's about to become a father, the judge decides on a lenient sentence... no prison time... 300 hours of community payback. But Clancy isn't finished with Robbie. "You'd have been saver inside, young prick."

On Robbie's first day of community payback, the call comes in. Leonie's gone into labor. The crew supervisor, Harry, drives Robbie to the hospital and has a chance to see firsthand why Robbie's not going to be able to stay out of trouble. Three thugs from Clancy's gang are waiting there to beat him up. Harry takes the bruised and bloodied Robbie back to his home to clean him up and give him some fatherly advice. "Don't be a mug. Think of the baby." That's when Robbie gets the text from Leonie... "You have a son... a wee boy with big blue eyes... named Luke." Harry wants to toast Luke with something special... his 32-year-old Springbank whiskey. Robbie finds the taste off-putting at first, but is impressed by Harry's passion for whiskey. When Harry later invites Robbie and his mates on a distillery tour, we find out that Robbie seems to have a rare natural ability to appreciate the complex nuisances of fine whiskey.

Although whiskey is the downfall of many, it just might be Robbie's ticket to a better life. At this point the movie morphs from a gritty (but humorous) social drama to a clever and heartwarming crime caper. Our empathy for the main characters may be enough to keep us engaged, even though the genre hybrid of gritty realism with a fanciful, feel-good story is a bit incongruous. The writer/director team is known for non-Hollywood style films with a social message, and The Angels' Share certainly has one. It's a heartfelt tale with excellent performances... many by first-time actors. The Scottish humor is charming and provides many raunchy chuckles. Along the way, we learn that as whiskey ages, "about 2% evaporates into thin air every year... it's what we call 'the angles' share.'" Sometimes an angle is the ones who give a struggling lad a chance to change his life.

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Growing up on the rough side of Glasgow, all the cards are stacked against Robbie... until someone gives him a chance to appreciate the finer qualities of fine whiskey

Popcorn Profile
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: Irreverent
Social Significance: Thought provoking

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