Robbie (Paul Brannigan) has barely avoided a prison sentence from an assault charge, helped by the fact that he’s about to become a father. His girlfriend’s family hates him, and after years of being an unemployed thug, Robbie wants nothing more than to change his life. Given community service for his assault charge, Robbie meets Harry (John Henshaw), his community service worker, and a few other unlucky individuals in the same position that he’s in. Harry decides to take the group to a whiskey distillery tour, where Robbie learns he has quite the nose for whiskey. With an auction for a very rare whiskey coming up, Robbie recruits his three new friends to help him with one last criminal activity. If they can manage to steal the whiskey, they can sell it to the highest bidder, but how can they pull it off when they can barely organize their lives?

Although billed as a dramatic comedy, it takes quite a while to get into the more funny sections of The Angels’ Share . The first hour is filled with bleak moments, and spends a great deal of time introducing the audience to the rather depressing life of Robbie. Thanks to a fantastic performance from Paul Brannigan, this portion of the film is incredibly strong, and greatly adds to the heist portion of the film. You’ll want nothing more than to see Robbie break out of his criminal lifestyle and give his newborn son a different life from his own. Brannigan is very convincing as a young man who has only known petty crime and violence in his life, but he’s also charming enough for an audience to believe that he wants to turn things around.

Once Robbie begins spending time with Harry and the friends he makes doing community service, and learning that he has a nose for fine whiskey, things start to lighten up, leading into an incredibly tense and hilarious heist scenario. When the group go to a whiskey tasting, Robbie meets a whiskey collector who gives him his card. Robbie also learns that a very rare whiskey will be going up for auction. Robbie and his friends come up with a plan to steal some of the whiskey and sell it to the collector Robbie met, giving them enough money to start new lives.

It seems like an impossible task with the group Robbie has put together, but that only gives the scenes a strong tension, and leads into some moments that will leave your stomach hurting from laughter. It takes a little bit of time to actually like the various characters in the film, but by the end, you’ll want to cheer them on as they attempt to pull off their plan.

Is The Angels’ Share opening weekend worthy?

Absolutely. It’s rare when a film contains characters that you really want to see succeed, and The Angels’ Share is full of them. The content can be a bit heavy at the start, but when it all comes together during their whiskey heist, it blends perfectly.

The Angels’ Share opens on Friday, May 17, 2013 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Check the website for more details.

The Angels’ Share  Trailer

The Angels’ Share Production Gallery

MORE FROM TORONTO FILM SCENE