Picks and Pans Review: Shallow Grave

updated 02/13/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1995 01:00AM

Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ewan McGregor

Single White Female was a strong, cautionary tale for anyone looking for a roommate. This mordant black comedy, which recalls the early skewed work of the Coen brothers, carries things a bit further. Fox, a doctor, Eccleston, an accountant, and McGregor, a reporter, are interviewing candidates to share their Edinburgh flat. In an effort to weed out weirdos, the grilling is thorough ("What do you do about the blood when preparing a sacrificial goat?") and unrelenting. Imagine, then, the trio's delight when they light on Keith Allen, who though claiming to be a novelist seems utterly normal.

But his signature is barely dry on the lease before Allen becomes a late lodger. A drug overdose is what Fox diagnoses when she and her cohorts discover Allen stiff on his bed. They discover something else in the room: a suitcase crammed with money. Now they have a dilemma: Do they behave like decent beings and call the police, or do they keep the money? And if they keep the money, how do they dispose of the body? A trip to the hardware store and a trip to the woods solve that knotty problem. But then come guilt, paranoia, recrimination, madness, mayhem and murder.

Shallow Grave is too stylish and too clever by half. Even so, it has some devilishly funny moments, and the actors make the most of every macabre one. (R)

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