SHANK

4.5 out of 10

Release Date: 26th March 2010

Director: Mo Ali (Montana)

Cast: Ashley Thomas, Kedar Stirling-Williams, Adam Deacon, Michael Socha, Jan Uddin, Kaya Scodelario, Jennie Jacques, Jerome Holder, Rheanne Murray, Robert Fucilla, Colin Salmon, Aml Ameen and Luke De Woolfson with Robbie Gee and Terry Stone 

Writer: Paul Van Carter

Trailer: SHANK

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Here we have one of the warmer received urban thrillers that sprang up in the wake of Kidulthood.  Shank shares the same creative team as said film and Everywhere + Nowhere.  Shank is set in the near future where resources are so depleted inner London is now a Mad Max lite zone ran by feral gangs and families. One such family is led by Rager (ASHLEY THOMAS – THE MAN INSIDE) and his younger brother, Junior (KEDAR STIRLING WILLIAMS).  Making up their tight crew are friends played by Adam Deacon (EVERYWHERE + NOWHERE), Michael Socha (THIS IS ENGLAND) and Jan Uddin (BLACK GOLD).   Junior’s run in with a local gang leader, Tugz (JEROME HOLDER – HOLBY CITY),  over a food heist leads to fatal consquences for one of their number.  They swear an oath of vengeance and aim to get even by any cost.  Learning that the killer is well protected and difficult to find they embark on a journey that takes them across enemy territory, which will bring them face to face with even worse foes than Tugz.

Shank fails to convince in its depiction of a desolate future. The production design is slipshod and low budget. The street scenes are under-populated and everything looks tired and staged.  The acting from the well known leads is quite stilted on this occasion. It’s a shame because some of the action is impressive, the opening foot vs. motorbike chase around a tower block complex in particular.  Its left to the cameoes from the likes of a best yet Terry Stone (THE HOLDING) as a fast food restauranteur that specialises in pigeon and Robbie Gee (DEAD MAN RUNNING), who explains the butterfly effect to tortuous degrees, to spice up the fam’s journey.  Colin Salmon (EXAM) has a baffling and pointless cameo as a shopper intent on buying an apple for a scene that seems to last 30 minutes. Baffling! The whole exercise feels like an irritating version of The Warriors with a bickering cast of Grange Hill graduates. Shank clearly knows what type of film it wants to be but it lacks the energy or style or even performances to elevate this above the forgettable.  Adam Deacon and co fail to shade their characters, they are saddled with bad dialogue and boring situations.  What action sequences there are, are good but events rarely escalate above a shuffle.  Some girls show up later int he game to assist the boys on their quest. Again, good up and coming actresses like Kaya Scodelario (NOW IS GOOD) and Jennie Jacques (TRUTH OR DARE) are wasted and fulfil their roles as skanky skits. The only type of woman to have been strong enough to survive the collapse of society.

There are some good ideas fighting their way out somewhere in Shank but mostly any message has been choked to death by the lack of energy or care put into the project.  Stick with The Warriors, at least the dialogue was kept to the minimum there.  Here every time someone opens their mouths, crap dialogue screeches out and in doing so kills any interest there may have been.

4.5 out of 10: Shank? More like Skank.  Good action sequences and memorable cameos are all this has going for it. Which ain’t saying much.

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One thought on “SHANK

  1. JOE PESCI’s snarky (deservedly so) review of SHANK

    SHANK

    What an oddity.

    There is an argument that states that artists are artists because they have a power to predict. That through their skills in observing and imagining, it is our artists who predict and sometimes even create the future (witness, for example how scientists are trying to make real concepts originally posited purely in entertainment form in STAR WARS and STAR TREK). SHANK may one day be seen either (a) to be one such prophetic film. Or (b) a pile of dross. But it paints a picture of London in 2015 in which law and order has vanished (it was made over a year before the 2011 riots; this review is written in 2013). The economy has died. Inflation is high, and the only goods are those which you can steal. The family has broken down and been replaced by social units based on peer pressure. Authority is based on brute strength. And Adam Deacon is even more annoying than usual.

    Our heroes are the members of a non-violent gang of loveable rogues. There are a couple of brothers (Kedar Williams-Stirling, putting in a promising performance, and Ashley Thomas), the irritating Deacon, the awful Jan Uddin (is he a pal of the producer?), and Michael Socha, who is like some sort of tiresome1970s northern comedian before his time (in a bad way). They also have a dog who steals the film. (His reaction to events at the end of the film is rather delightful.) One of them dies. The others seek revenge.

    The film’s structure is a bit rubbish (I think it’s meant to be clever). We start with a violent altercation, then flash back six hours to see what led up to it. Then we reach the violent altercation (which the film-maker fast-forwards through) until we reach the crisis point. We then follow our heroes in their search for vengeance, which basically involves them visiting a sequence of Britpic-style character actors, who just point them on to the next moderately eccentric character actor, until eventually they find what they’re looking for, then wonder if it’s such a good idea. Basically, it’s a lad spending most of the film asking directions (literally, as in ‘where’s Jim?’ not metaphorically as in ‘where is my life leading?’). And getting called a cunt. (Ah, Terry Stone, I’ve missed you.)

    Our heroes’ quest eventually leads them to a nightclub, a sequence which fatally slows the film down as we are treated to some tedious musical interludes, showcasing the hits of the near future. The finale, when it eventually lumbered along, was mishandled. (Actually most of the film is mishandled.) We’ve built up to a big fight, but it all comes across a bit Children’s Film Foundation.

    The supporting cast are quite an entertaining and motley cross-section of Britpic thespians. Jerome Holder (as the villainous Tugz) steals the film quite effortlessly from the main cast which is too full of preening show-offs. (OK they’re playing preening show-offs, but still…) Robert Fucilla turns up! As I hold him personally responsible for the economic crisis I find it comically ironic that he appears as the leader of a group of economic unfortunates struggling way below the breadline. Serves you right for PIMP, THE BIG I AM and the recessions (all of them). Terry Stone’s in there as well, as some sort of pigeon-cooking café owner. He steals a bit of the film as well. And there’s the obligatory Colin Salmon cameo! (But he doesn’t steal the film; instead he negotiates the price of fruit and tells our hero to be careful.) Some girls (Kaya Scodelario and Jennie Jacques) are allowed to turn up, seemingly for decorative purposes. Robbie Gee also appears and he steals the film too with an explanation of chaos theory which should have been in a better movie than this.

    From time to time the film uses computer game imagery to tell the story, generally at moments of violence. This is interesting, but just a tad confusing. Is it a grim comment on the blurring of reality, morality and make-believe in the mind of the modern teenage boy? Or was it so they could save money on fight sequences? This is indicative of one of the film’s wider problems: it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be.
    SHANK seems to want to be a hard-edged pessimistic dystopian film but it ends up being a would-be laddish runaround which is just too lethargic for its own good. You sometimes wonder if they’re more likely to die of old age before hunting down the elusive Tugz. It’s a massive missed opportunity. Neither blisteringly angry nor engagingly larky (which arguably makes it more honest in a way) it just ends up as weirdly piecemeal. One moment London looks like it’s just emerged from Armageddon, the next moment comedy genius Michael Socha is doing robot dancing. (In case you weren’t sure, there is sarcasm in the preceding sentence.)

    One could view SHANK as a study of the socio-economic fallout of the recession, depicting a riven land of have-nots and other have-nots. As such it may well turn out to be surprisingly prescient (though I’m in a fairly miserable the world is doomed mood anyway today). Another big problem (apart from the acting, and the dialogue) is that the situation doesn’t really depend on the setting. I liked the background, I liked them paying £500 for an apple or whatever it was. But the story was just ‘you killed one of us… Payback!’ And the strangely pedestrian nature of that payback was very odd. They just get directed from one shop to a settlement to a café to a pub to a club until they actually find their quarry. The film also keeps its cake by allowing our hero both redemption and vengeance, which is a cop-out. It is also difficult to look at SHANK and say that it doesn’t condone (a) violence and (b) knife crime, which seems a bit dim with regard to its target audience.

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