The Undertaker review – Paul McGann offers buried feelings in shady period thriller


This subtle thriller, which takes place in the late 1950s or early 1960s based on the clothing worn, pays homage to the regional British crime films of that era. These were the types of movies where low-level criminals and con men in flashy suits fought over control of the black market for ration cards. Writer-director Michael Wright demonstrates a strong interest in this setting and accurately portrays the slang and terminology in this story about Arthur Morel (played by Paul McGann), a reserved funeral director who becomes entangled with local gangster Finlay (Roger Barclay) in a small town in the north. Finlay enlists Arthur’s help in disposing of the excess bodies from his illicit activities, which he refers to as “loose ends.”

It’s not immediately clear why Arthur agrees to take on this shady extra business, but perhaps it has something to do with his late brother who had a gambling habit that got him into trouble with Finlay. Or maybe Arthur just fancies some extra cash. It’s hard to tell given how buttoned-down and clenched of jaw McGann’s performance is, playing a man obsessed with keeping the doors between his work life and private life closed and locked, literally as well as figuratively.

Wright and his team intentionally decrease the intensity of colors and prefer shades of brown and grey in the production and costume design, creating a weak tea-like appearance. This can become overwhelming over time, but there are a few standout moments, such as Tara Fitzgerald’s verbose monologue as a bitter nightclub singer discussing the intricacies of snooker. It is overly pretentious writing, but she delivers it perfectly. Additionally, the late character actor Murray Melvin makes a charming appearance in one of his final roles, portraying Lenny, Arthur’s retired co-worker who calmly anticipates his impending death and has strong opinions on his desired coffin.


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