Scottish street tough Robbie is finding it hard to leave the criminal life. After being arrested for assault, he tries desperately to find a job, only to have every door slammed in his face.
But when his parole officer introduces him to the pleasures of whisky with a tour of a local distillery, the onetime beer brawler discovers a new future. In "The Angels' Share" (the title refers to a small amount of whisky that evaporates as it ages in barrels), whisky turns out to be a saving grace, not the cause of downfall.
Robbie discovers that he's got a discerning palate and is able to pick up the nuances of taste and aroma in the world-class spirits coveted by wealthy collectors.
To make money with this gift and save his young family, he and three friends from his community service work crew hatch a plan to siphon off part of a rare cask of Scotch that's worth millions. Donning kilts so that they can blend in with Highlands tourists, they embark on a journey that's as much about bonding as it is about a liquor heist.
Director Ken Loach strikes a nice balance between portraying the bleak life of Glasgow's lower class, along with the senseless violence that can erupt when young men face hopelessness, and the fun that unfolds as the misfit friends act out their scheme.
Although some of the accents are so thick it's difficult to understand the dialogue (where are the subtitles when we need them?), the performances feel genuine, particularly from newcomer Paul Brannigan, who moves like a seasoned cat burglar during the whisky theft.