The Debt Collector (1999) Poster

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A truly disturbing, truly bleak movie
Kiwinick7 February 2000
My title isn't to imply that this movie isn't worth seeing. If you can stand the despair, this movie is fantastic.

I found that the words of the Greeks came back to me as I was watching The Debt Collector. "Those whom the gods will destroy, they first make mad". It seemed apt for a modern tragedy in the tradition of Sophocles.

The best technique that Neilson used was lighting. It's rare to have a movie that goes from such brightness to such gloom. The wedding scene, for instance, was as bright and cheerful as you expect such a scene to be, but after Keltie's parting shot, we are outside, in the rain, the dark, the gloom... perfect!

The violence is something that others have commented on. It is so unlike the Hollywood violence that we are accustomed to seeing. This violence is very real, and more shocking and horrifying because of it. All the male lead characters were capable of violence, and it made me wonder how close we all are from such displays.

The Debt Collector is a story of hatred gone to extremes. It spoke to me of how hatred and revenge are empty ideas... and how it is much more important, if difficult to forgive those who have harmed you, and not to live in the past.

This movie is not for everyone, but if you are interested in tragedy, then you should see this film.
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Involving and frightening, but not quite touching.
Martin Pollard8 January 2000
This is an oddity: a British film that doesn't trade on its Britishness, instead relying on its strong plot and themes to carry it along. Billy Connolly's and Ken Stott's performances contrast pleasingly, the former underplaying his hopefully-reformed murderer, and the latter foaming at the mouth with the sheer excesses of his anger.

The film touches on themes of forgiveness, justice and obsession, but lays no claim to easy solutions, instead trying its hardest to give a hard time to all involved. Forgive but don't forget would seem to be the message.

Unfortunately, its fast pace sometimes swamps opportunities for true character development. At times saddening, at others horrifically disturbing, The Debt Collector never manages to build enough empathy to be truly touching.
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Why everyone should watch Scotland's hidden gem.
re-veers30 August 2000
The Debt Collector is a brilliant study of one man's attempt to escape his past without fully paying for his sins and one man's obsession which eventually takes over his life. Nicky Dryden (Billy Connelly) is the man with the past, a vicious debt collector. Keltie (Ken Stott) is the cop who ensnares him and puts him away. When Dryden is released he starts to make a name for himself as an artist and marries a beautiful reporter. Keltie cannot bear to see a man like Dryden living a lifestyle like that after all the horror he created. Dryden of course is a reformed man but is haunted by his past. His wife Val (Francesca Annis) seems to be the only one who understands. All Keltie had is his mother (Annette Crosbie) who is starting to suffer from dementia. When Keltie seeks revenge on Dryden on behalf of all his victims it becomes an obsession. Then Flipper (Iain Robertson) a young thug who hero-worships Dryden, becomes the catalyst for tragic events to unfold and nobodies life is untouched. You will never see a more intense study of obsession. The closest film comparison would be TAXI DRIVER, but that is the story of a loner. The men in Debt Collector both have responsibilities toward family and that is the source of the tragedy in the film. The performances are brilliant, Connelly, Stott, Robertson and Annis are perfect, with Stott deserving a special mention for creating one of the most complicated characters in Scottish Screen History. The Direction is tight, Neilson never once showing his TV roots. This is a film well worth seeking out.
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First class thriller
Drifteral9915 January 2006
I really enjoyed this movie. The acting was excellent throughout and the storyline gritty and lifelike. This is life at the raw end of the spectrum. The violence was visceral and essential to the plot. Some good sights of Edinburgh and the iconic Forth Rail Bridge.

A tale of a violent man struggling to shake off his past, though it seems far behind him. When a contemporary from that past makes it all the more difficult to forget the haunting truth of 'another' life. Nick Dryden ,convicted gangster and man of violence emerges from prison a respected sculptor and marries a middle class journalist.

Francesca Annis for me took the acting honours though all the male roles were almost equally well performed.Stott and Connolly both excel.

As someone said already 'a debt well worth collecting', see it soon if you haven't already
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Well Done,Billy
zenya1 November 2000
I have just seen this movie and thought I should make a comment on it. The performances by Billy Connolly and Ken Stott deserve accolades,Connolly is just as good as he was in Mrs.Brown,playing a man who after spending years in jail is determined to go straight. Newcomer Iain Robertson also gives a very good performance as a gangster wannabee. This film is a must see movie for Connolly fans,and just for people who like to watch a good quality movie.
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Powerful if bleak view of human nature
almagill27 November 1999
An excellent film, though what a bleak view of human nature. Connolly's character is trying to live a good life and the psychotic policeman is determined that it won't happen.

Real Shakespearian tragedy, the wilful misunderstanding of the others characters motives by virtually everyone in the film made the outcome inevitable. The fight in Edinburgh Castle was a wee bit on the unbelievable side, but definitely fitted into the dramatic tradition.

At the end you were left wondering who had actually benefited from the whole sordid mess?
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Powerhouse performances from the main actors
Lemos20 November 2000
Ken Stott who is the policeman who just keeps on hounding Billy Connolly an ex-con, even after the latter has served his sentence, puts in a really brilliant performance. Francesca Annis as Connolly's wife is very good as well. Well paced and riveting throughout this film is well worth seeing when one is sick of all the bang-wham of the big American movies.
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A film that is difficult to watch.
CharltonBoy5 July 2000
This a gritty , violent movie that i found quite hard to watch. Not because of the gritty nature of the film but because it was extremely depressing , so much so it spoilt the film . The film is about a ex debt collector(Billy Connolly) who has done his time for murder and the Policeman (Kenn Stott) who sent him down , who cannot still find it in himself to forgive him for the terrible things he did even though he was a changed man. I found it hard to understand why the Cop took it so personally . The language is about as blue as i have ever heard in a film and the violence is pretty bad too. One thing is for sure , the scottish tourist board will not be using this film to promote their capital city! Check out the actor who plays flipper, he looks like he fell out of the ugly tree hitting every branch on the way down. 6 out of 10.
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The debt that must be paid.
Spikeopath21 February 2016
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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