The Debt Collector

This article is about the film. For the business entity, see Collection agency.
The Debt Collector

DVD Cover
Directed by Anthony Neilson
Produced by Damian Jones
Graham Broadbent
Written by Anthony Neilson
Starring Billy Connolly
Ken Stott
Francesca Annis
Music by Adrian Johnston
Cinematography Dick Pope
Edited by John Wilson
Release dates
  • 25 June 1999 (1999-06-25)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Debt Collector is a 1999 thriller, written and directed by Scottish dramatist Anthony Neilson and starring Billy Connolly, Ken Stott and Francesca Annis.

Loosely based on the character of Jimmy Boyle, The Debt Collector explores themes of forgiveness, revenge, change and the macho culture of modern urban Scottish life.


The film opens in late 1970s Edinburgh; Nicky Dryden (Billy Connolly) is arrested by Gary Keltie (Ken Stott) for his part in enforcing the collection of money owed to a loan shark.

Soon the film moves into the present time. Dryden has left prison and changed his ways. He is now a feted sculptor married to journalist Val Dryden (Francesca Annis) displaying his first show. The show is interrupted by Keltie who is disgusted by Dryden's new-found respectability, and claims that he hasn't paid his debt to society. Dryden wishes to move on from his past crimes, but Keltie is determined not to let him forget his past.

At the same time a young wannabe gangster Flipper (Iain Robertson) is obsessed by Dryden's dark past and wishes to emulate him. He takes part in low level crime, which escalates in a murder of a security guard at a swimming pool (played by Ford Kiernan).

Keltie continues to harass Dryden and his family, including disrupting a family wedding. When Dryden's stepson is murdered and Keltie shows up at the funeral, Dryden seeks revenge. He contacts one of his old underworld colleagues who arranges for Flipper to attack Keltie. Flipper, however, viciously attacks Keltie's mother (played by Annette Crosbie). Flipper makes contact with Dryden and boasts about his crime to Dryden. Disgusted by the attack on an old woman, Dryden himself brutally attacks Flipper, killing him in the end.

Extremely distraught over the attack upon his mother, Keltie breaks into Dryden's home to attack Dryden. Dryden is however at the Edinburgh Tattoo at the time, and Keltie instead takes his vengeance on Dryden by raping his wife.

Keltie eventually meets up with Dryden, and in a fight outside Edinburgh Castle ends up being killed by Dryden.

The film ends with Dryden being acquitted of the murder of Keltie, but he is a broken man, disabled by the attack, his marriage has broken up and he is once again estranged by polite society. Finally, Keltie's mother is placed in a nursing home to reflect on the loss she has endured.

Filming locations

Although predominantly set in Edinburgh, much of the film was filmed in Glasgow as part of the condition of the Glasgow Film Fund.[1] and some shot in Edinburgh.[2]


The film won the FIPRESCI prize at the Troia Film Festival.[3]


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