Ken Loach’s affable crime movie brings together a group of low-rent, ex-offenders through a community service course in Glasgow. Chief among them is Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a young father who, after barely avoiding a long custodial sentence, finds himself presented with a final chance to turn his faltering life around. Under the guidance of supervisor, Harry (John Henshaw), and with the help of new friends Mo (Jasmin Riggins), Albert (Gary Maitland) and Rhino (William Ruane), Robbie develops a passion for whisky, and with it a chance to escape his troubled past.
Loach has, for the most part, done a decent job of melding the contrasting elements of the down-at-heel kitchen sink drama, with the daft whimsy of a Highlands whisky heist. Brannigan, in particular, is successful in his ability to instil genuine empathy for a character who’s no angel himself. He’s also more than adequately aided by an amusing and largely comprehensible supporting cast, with Maitland standing out as the profoundly dim-witted Albert.
Loach’s ability to temper the comedy with the uglier elements of Robbie’s life, or vice versa, is evident for only two thirds of the story though. As the drink begins settle in the hearts and minds of the audience, Robbie’s past misconducts are conveniently washed-away in a tide of priceless Scotch. It reflects well on Loach and his cast then, that this shift from reality to fancy doesn’t entirely ruin the experience.
There’s more than enough spirit to be found at the bottom of the bottle, to redress the balance of a slightly lopsided story.
Extras on the DVD include a short making-of documentary, featuring interviews with Loach and the cast, who remark on his collaborative approach to filmmaking, as well as Brannigan’s real-life troubles, and his connection to his character.