Rating: (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!] Tuesday, 10/20/2009, 9:00 PM Feature presentation, $10 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts
SIMON PEARCE HAS made exactly one film: Shank. Witness the start of what will no doubt be a brilliant career.
A kind of anti-Beautiful Thing, Shank centers on Cal (Wayne Virgo), a British roughhouse who runs with a vicious, violence-crazed gang led by the perpetually angry, semi-pathological Nessa (Alice Payne). None of them know Cal’s secret — that he’s attracted to men and, more urgently, harbors an unrequited, secret crush on his best mate Jonno (the intensely virile Tom Bott).
Essentially, Cal gets his kicks picking up wimpy tricks, having them fuck him in the woods (while memorializing the experience on his camera phone), then head-butting them and leaving them stranded.
But what Cal doesn’t count on is finding a genuine attraction for a French exchange student named Olivier, a lithe, effete young man whom Cal saves from a bashing at the hands of his mates. Olivier seduces the more-than-willing Cal, who has been cast out of his gang, and shows him honest affection, the kind that comes with a golden glow during lovemaking. It’s all so perfect, you just know things are going to end up badly. But credit goes to Pearce and writers Darren Flaxstone and Christian Marten for seeing Shank‘s brutal, shocking climax through in a largely credible way. It’s explicit but not a bit gratuitous — and it’s as unnerving and alarming as anything made by Scorsese or Tarantino.
Shank is plagued by a few first-timer missteps — the narrative is needlessly disjointed, at times clichés take the place of genuine depth, and the performances are borderline amateurish (hardly surprising since the film is a debut for much of the cast). And yet Shank proves to be a raw, urgent narrative experience. Gripping, absorbing and potent, it drives directly to the edge and then careens, at top speed, headlong over it.
Also on the bill, Shattercane (), a comatose short about a Midwestern boy who inherits portion of his family farm with a strong warning from his pop: What happens in the combines stays in the combines.
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