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The debt collector

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Some debts can never be paid.

Ex-loan shark and convicted murderer Nicky Dryden (Billy Connolly) seems to have paid his debt to society. He has served his sentence in one of Britain's toughest prisons. He is happily married and hailed as a talented sculptor by the art world.

Eighteen years on, Gary Keltie (Ken Stott), the policeman responsible for his conviction, cannot accept Dryden's rehabilitation and embarks on a campaign to ensure his violent rimes are not forgotten or forgiven. As Dryden and Keltie clash, a disturbed teenager, Flipper (Iain Robertson), is goaded by his hero-worship for Dryden into violent acts which are the catalyst for the final confrontation between the policeman who has stepped outside the law and the ex-criminal who cannot ignore his past.

Also starring Francesca Annis as Val Dryden, Annette Crosbie as Lana Keltie and Alastair Galbraith as Colquhon. Written and directed by Anthony Neilson.

Persons of interest

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Crime doesn't pay.

Now, to fully appreciate this old-fashioned message, you, dear reader, have to remember that the 90s saw an explosion of crim flicks where the bad guys were the good guys (as long as they had a conscience). Think Lock, stock and two smoking barrels, think The General, think Heaven, think Jackie Brown, think Payback, think Plunkett and Macleane, think Run Lola run, think The Thomas Crown affair, think Three kings, think Twin town... in each of these films you are encouraged to cheer for the criminal rather than the cop. It's a barrage of anti-authority propaganda which I particularly enjoyed reviewing. The debt collector returns to a classical view of crime.

Fortunately, however, it's not a classical film. There's a darkness that pervades every scene; no-one is innocent, no-one is undamaged by life. That's cool, too, because it means that people are going to behave very, very badly.

Billy scores big sympathy points as the evil man turned to goodness. Evil is not too strong a word, his character's past is replete with violence, intimidation and murder. The policy of injuring innocents to force someone to pay their debt is heinous in the extreme but he has done his time and should therefore be a man washed clean of sin, except that those he hurt cannot find it in themselves to forgive him. That's where Ken comes in as the bitter, twisted copper who has lost his faith in the system he serves. As the saying goes, "Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas". Iain is intense as all hell: a Jack the lad one moment and a vicious killer the next. He, too, has been let down by society: no one ever cared. Francesca powers through the journalist turned wife who is made to suffer in the most horrendous ways. It's an unhappy joy to see her on the big screen.

The debt collector is definitely not for the faint hearted. It may well be the blackest film you and I will see all year.

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (High level violence, high level coarse language)

Surveillance time

110 minutes (1:50 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

8 June 2000

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