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Mean, gritty, dirty and low and that's just the Policeman Gary Keltie (Ken Stott) out for retribution for the horrendous crimes against the helpless people of Edinburgh during the nineteen seventies, by notorious, torturous, and killer, debt collector Nickie Dryden (Billy Connolly). This is as hard as they come; giants of their professions one with a trade that needs to be kept secret and the other holding a grudge. Shot around the beautiful City of Edinburgh years later, with it coarse language and criminal underclass, we see the wrath of spite, hate, jealousy and violent vengeance all in the final showdown of justice and with it its uncompromising final debt to society. Written by
To date this remains the only film Anthony Neilson has directed, in fact, he also wrote it and his writing credits can also be counted on one hand. This is a crime, for The Debt Collector is a powerhouse film, a grim and grungy piece of British miserablism that serves to gnaw away at your senses.
Billy Connolly stars as ex-con Nickie Dryden, who after release from prison marries and tries to start afresh as an artist. But there is a vengeful policeman on his tail, Gary Keltie (Ken Stott), who believes nobody should ever forget the crimes that Dryden perpetrated.
Stripping it down it's a tale of repercussions of actions, of perceived retribution and of off-kilter hero worship. Right from the off you know this is a tragedy piece, something Shakespearian like, clearly we are not in this part of Edinburgh to be cheered up! The colour photography (Dick Pope) is beautiful and belies the harsh nature of the story, while Neilson shows some splendid flighty camera work that gracefully marries up with the great performances of his two lead actors.
It's a punch in the face movie, attention grabbing for sure, but it also taxes the brain. An unjustly neglected film that deserves to be sought out by more lovers of gritty British cinema. 9/10
Footnote: Subtitles might be required for non British viewers.
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