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DEBT COLLECTOR, THE

SYNOPSIS:
After serving 18 years, murdering standover man, Nickie Dryden (Billy Connolly) the debt collector for his loan shark boss, has started a new life, with a wife and a new career. Championed as a rehabilitation success story, Nickie has made an apparently clean break; he is now an acclaimed sculptor and by marriage to Val (Francesca Annis). The serenity he has established is threatened by the relentless harassment of Keltie (Ken Stott), the detective who arrested him and the violent behaviour of Flipper (Iain Robertson), an aspiring young criminal determined to follow in the footsteps of his idol.

"An excellent non-comedic performance from Billy Connolly isnít enough to save this grimy crime story from tedium which becomes total boredom by the end of 110 long minutes. What might have fitted neatly into a one hour television cop drama is stretched out way beyond its welcome by repetition and a narrative without any surprises at it plods along toward the inevitable conclusion. It's as if the film is overwhelmed by a sense of look, weíve got Billy Connolly acting straight and isnít he good? Yes he is but how many times does he need to confront the obsessed Keltie and go into extended deep personal crisis mode to make the point that yes, indeed, it is hard to escape your criminal past. Especially when you were the extremely nasty piece of work Nickie Dryden once was. More successful is the contrast between Nickie and his would-be successor Flipper which scores a few points as an examination of hero worship and paternalism but it all takes so long to happen. Like almost everything here the backstreets of gloomy Glasgow are interesting for a while - itís just a pity nothing more significant than an average telemovie of the week is played out on them."
Richard Kuipers

"I found The Debt Collector to be a deeply disturbing film. In fact the MA rating surprises me, as the violence in context is pretty chilling indeed. It's an ugly story: a tale of revenge and hatred of two men. Psychologically alarming, it's the mind games that ultimately are the most damaging, as family members are targeted for the ultimate revenge. But if you have the stomach for the plot, although the screenplay is a little long, it is a film well worth seeing. Hard-hitting and very dark, but the performances shine as brightly as a full moon on a dark night. Billy Connolly is truly magnificent as Nickie Dryden, a man who believes his past is behind him. The complexities of Dryden's anguish are etched deeply into Connolly's face, which we see for much of the film in tight close up. Is rehabilitation possible? Can a man change? Or are the shadows that lurk in the abyss of the mind too powerful? Can there ever be such a thing as reason, when 'an eye for an eye' has been the code for living for so long? And how much can a man take before he cracks? Theatre actor Ken Stott plays Gary Keltie with chilling conviction. We see two sides of this man Ė the callous, unforgiving, unrelenting pursuer, as well as the doting son and carer of an aged mother. All the performances are effective; Francesca Annis as Dryden's wife and Iain Robertson as Flipper, the lost soul wanting to emulate his hero. It's the paradox of human nature that lies at the very core of The Debt Collector. Some may find part of the broad Scottish dialogue difficult to understand, but the language of violence and fear is universal."
Louise Keller

"I am reliably informed by a genuine Scot that the first half of this story is based on fact. But casting the likeable Billy Connolly (even when he is being gruff) in the role of the murderous Dryden, and Ken Stott in nasty mood as the 'vengeance be mine' copper, is clearly playing on our sympathies, nudging us into the Dryden corner. This is perhaps the film's biggest weakness; it is hedging its moral bets to such an extent that it doesn't end up making up its moral mind. Neilson wants us to sympathise with Dryden, but he hesitates, sensing it has to be moderated. We are also expected to understand Keltie's rightousness, but then he is made to commit an act of bastardry to discredit that. In short, the film lacks the courage of its convictions - indeed, we can't find them. To make matters worse, Keltie the cop seems to arrive on Dryden's doorstep only after the latter's rise to fame as a sculptor, which is also some time after his marriage - and thus some time after Dryden's release from prison. But his furious, venomous pursuit suggests he would not have waited so long. This plot failure notwithstanding, the story manages to engage us, although only by the craftsmanship of the cast and crew - much of it remains simplistic and frustratingly manipulative, especially the second half. Back to the drawing board, m'lads."
Andrew L. Urban



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

DEBT COLLECTOR (MA)
(UK)

CAST: Billy Connolly, Ken Stott, Francesca Annis, Iain Robertson, Alistair Galbraith, James Thomson, Annette Crosbie

DIRECTOR: Anthony Nielson

PRODUCER: Graham Broadbent, Damien Jones

SCRIPT: Anthony Nielson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dick Pope

EDITOR: John Wilson

MUSIC: Adrian Johnstone

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Geraghty

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Pinefilm

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 8, 2000

UPCOMING EVENT
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney.

Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.







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