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Riff-Raff (1990)

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Director Ken Loach's concern for the plight of the working man takes a comic turn in this gritty film starring Robert Carlyle (TRAINSPOTTING) as Stevie, a young Scotsman who finds a construction job in the north of London turning an old hospital into luxury condos. Like most of the largely non-English crew, he's forced to live in a "squat," an abandoned building whose doors can be opened only with a crowbar. Despite their differences, the laborers are bound by the difficulty of their work and their shared hatred of the bosses and contractors who constantly threaten to fire them and endanger their lives by cutting corners on safety. Loach's camera follows the workers unobtrusively as they relax in the squats and pubs, revealing, in their gallows humor, the fatalism of men who feel they've been forgotten by the society they inhabit. Stevie tries moving in for a time with Susan (Emer McCourt), a slightly dim, aspiring singer, but as is often the case for these men, things don't quite work out they way he hopes. Although Loach worked from a script, he used only actors who had construction experience and encouraged them to improvise their dialogue, making RIFF RAFF an utterly absorbing experience. The music for the film, like RAINING STONES, is scored by Stewart Copeland of the Police.

Last Update: November 9, 2008

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