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Film / Scotland, PA

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"We're not bad people, Mac, we're just... underachievers that have to make up for lost time."
Pat McBeth

Scotland, PA is a 2001 film written and directed by Billy Morrisette, starring James LeGros, Maura Tierney, and Christopher Walken.

It's 1975, and in the small Central Pennsylvania town of Scotland, Joe "Mac" McBeth and his wife Pat are too old to be flipping burgers at Duncan's Cafe. Both of them receive a brief vision of what life would be like with Joe as the head of the restaurant; naturally, Pat decides the best way to accomplish this is to kill Duncan and make it look like a robbery. So that's what they do.

Under new management and a new name, the restaurant does great business. But forces, internal and external, threaten to tear everything apart. Mac's best friend Anthony "Banko" Banconi, and Lt. McDuff, the detective investigating Duncan's murder, both have their suspicions about the local fast-food king and queen, while the happy couple themselves are driven mad by their guilt and paranoia.

That's right, you've seen this story before. It's The Scottish Play, only this time it's in rural Pennsylvania in the '70s, and it's all played for laughs.

Incidentally, there really is a village of Scotland in Pennsylvania. It's along I-81 about 50 miles southwest of Harrisburg.

In addition to the tropes in the source material, provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Donald. It gets pretty blatant at the end. Hell, it's pretty blatant at the beginning.
    • The two male witches have a lot of innuendo between them, even though they're supposedly two non-sexual partners in a polyamorous relationship.
      Witch 1: Why do I have to be in the back?
      Witch 2: You said you liked it in the back!
  • Black Comedy
  • Bloodless Carnage: For the most part. Doesn't make Duncan's murder any less grotesque.
  • Broken Ace: Joe and Pat become incredibly successful business owners. But their rampant paranoia and fear over being arrested means they are unable to revel in that success.
  • Bumbling Dad: Duncan doesn't get much respect from Donald and Malcolm.
  • Burger Fool: Allow us to repeat: This movie is The Scottish Play with the entire Kingdom of Scotland replaced by a small-town Burger Fool in south-central Pennsylvania.
    • Unsubtly called McBeth's with a giant letter M as its logo.
  • Chekhov's Fryolator (also a bit of Five-Second Foreshadowing)
  • Climbing Climax: The showdown between McBeth and McDuff happens on the roof of the restaurant.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Pat McBeth goes from delivering an occasional Precision F-Strike to this by the end of the film.
  • Cooked to Death: Lt. McDuff confronts Joe about him killing Norm, who died from having his head shoved into a deep fryer in a fast food joint.
    Joe: Norm was an accident.
    McDuff: Accidentally got tied up and fell in the fryilator?!?
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Ed in the end, when he outsmarts McBeth by pretending that his gun is loaded, when it isn't.
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: Even the boss' head.
  • Description Cut:
    Pat: You know, the most important thing is that we carry on [Duncan's] legacy. You know, keep his name alive!
    [Cut to the "Duncan's" sign being torn off the front of the restaurant.]
  • Evil Vegetarian: Inverted. Joe and Pat own a Burger Fool while the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist is a vegetarian.
  • Fisher King: Completely inverted from the original play. Business at the restaurant does far better under the McBeths than it does before or after.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: All of the deaths as well as Pat's chopping off her hand (which may have resulted in her death) are presented this way.
  • Greasy Spoon: Duncan's was closer to this than a true Burger Fool, which is what Pat and Mac turn the restaurant into.
  • Hard-Work Montage / Good-Times Montage: The renovation of Duncan's into McBeth's, and the resulting prosperity for the McBeths.
    • The "prosperity" is charmingly white trash too, such as upgrading from a trailer to a ranch.
  • Hood Hornament: When Joe McBeth becomes owner of a successful restaurant, he buys a new car with steer horns on the hood as a status symbol. They're a Chekhov's Gun as well: he dies at the end by falling off a roof and getting impaled on those same horns.
  • Hunting "Accident": Subverted. Joe McBeth considers faking a hunting accident to kill Banko for knowing too much, and it briefly looks like he did so. Then it turns out the death was just deceptive editing, and Banko's just unconscious. Joe finds another way to kill him later.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    McDuff: What do you think of Malcolm?
    Mrs. Lenox: Oh, well. I think he's rude, selfish and evil. But I never once judged him.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Joe and Pat begin with just killing their boss, but gradually become more violent and unhinged as their lives start to crumble.
  • Junkie Prophet: A trio of Erudite Stoner bohemians replaces the witches.
  • Lady Macbeth: Pat plays a particularly strong one, insisting to Joe that killing Duncan is the right way to go.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Joe breaking up a near-foodfight, which is the incident corresponding to Macbeth winning a great military victory.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Duncan is very inept at actually running his business, and is one of the reasons why Joe and Pat plot his death.
  • Sanity Slippage: Joe and Pat, with the former becoming increasingly murderous and paranoid and the latter becoming obsessed over a non-existant grease burn.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Though McDuff's wife and kids are mentioned, there is no indication of anything ever happening to them. Presumably McBeth knew how suicidally stupid it would be to go after a cop's family and had no way of getting to them even if he wanted to.
  • Stealth Pun: Prior to his cafe, Duncan used to run a donut shop.
  • Tastes Like Feet: "I can't believe I just drank that. Your water tastes like ass."
  • Villain Protagonist: Joe and Pat start out just wanting to kill their boss, and the former gradually becomes more murderous and unhinged as his life comes crashing down around him.