Stunt Double: The Debt Collector

debt collectordebt collector 2debt collector 3I first saw The Debt Collector in 2001 on television, a couple of years after its 1999 release. Re-watching it recently I was reminded of what compelling viewing it is, and at the same time how brutally violent it is in certain scenes – one early scene involving Iain Robertson as the character Flipper and Julie Wilson Nimmo in a minor role still made me flinch on second viewing 12 years later.

The film opens in the 1970s with Ken Stott’s detective Gary Keltie capturing Billy Connolly’s murderous “debt collector”  Nickie Dryden for his crimes. We then fast forward to 1999, where a reformed and released Dryden is now a respected artist married to journalist Val, played by Francesca Annis. Keltie is disgusted at the sight of Dryden in this perfect world – glittering receptions, book festival appearances, attractive wife – while he struggles to make ends meet and lives with his dementia suffering mother (Annette Crosbie). It becomes his mission to humiliate Dryden at every opportunity and the detective becomes more and more obsessed to a disturbing extent. Dryden attempts to retain composure but this becomes increasingly difficult, and even more so when Flipper enters the equation. A troubled and violent young man, he regards the Dryden of old as an idol and when his hero shuns him he takes measures that create a devastating chain of events for all of the main characters.

The acting in The Debt Collector is excellent – beardless Connolly is in arguably one of his most serious roles, and certainly a million miles from cheerful anecdotes on Parkinson. Teenaged Robertson presents us with a character that is both menacing and pathetic, and Annis gives a powerful performance as Val’s rather pleasant lifestyle begins to crumble. Stott meanwhile is remarkable as the obsessed detective – while one feels pity for him at times, it’s hard not to see him as somewhat hateful at points and even feel sympathy for Dryden as a result. In addition to the sterling leading performances it is also good to see a real who’s who of famous Scots – including the aforementioned Wilson Nimmo and Crosbie, Ford Kiernan, Ronni Ancona, Jimmy Logan and Una McLean – play parts in this first class film.

It’s yet another film in which Glasgow stands in for Edinburgh in a number of scenes and it’s tempting to ask why this feature couldn’t simply have been set in the Dear Green Place, however a climax at the castle with the sounds of the Tattoo in the background makes the capital setting worth it. Among the Glasgow locations noticeable in The Debt Collector are Linn Crematorium and the Mitchell Theatre, whose facade portrays that of an art gallery housing Dryden’s exhibition.

Movie Glaswegians: Gavin Mitchell

Born in Glasgow on 13th January 1966, Gavin Mitchell has appeared alongside the previously featured Ford Kiernan in a number of television productions – most notably Still Game, in which he plays long suffering barman Boabby, as well as others including The Field Of Blood and Happy Hollidays. In addition his many other television credits include Rab C. Nesbitt, Taggart, Revolver, Monarch Of The Glen and Takin’ Over The Asylum.

Alongside the feast of Scottish television roles, Mitchell’s acting career is laced with film appearances spanning the past few decades too – from the Robin Williams-starring Being Human in 1994 to 2003’s Man Dancin’ and right up to 2011’s You Instead, a comedy drama set at the T in the Park festival.

Movie Glaswegians: Ford Kiernan

Ford Kiernan, born on 10th January 1962 and originally from the Dennistoun area of Glasgow, is a well known face on Scottish and increasingly UK-wide television. His roles on the small screen range from his much loved portrayal of pensioner Jack Jarvis in the Glasgow-set sitcom Still Game to playing former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in The Comic Strip Presents… The Hunt For Tony Blair.

However he is no stranger to the big screen, having appeared in films including Carla’s Song and The Debt Collector (both set in Glasgow), as well as Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York.

Kiernan is married with two children. According to his Wikipedia entry, his first comedy performances took place during the early 1990s in the basement of the Merchant City’s Blackfriar’s pub.