Shank tells the story of a closeted gang member Cal (Wayne Virgo) who is deeply in love with his best friend Jonno (Tom Bott). When Cal stops a senseless beating of college student Olivier (Marc Laurent), Jonno and his girlfriend Nessa (Alice Payne) seek retribution for what they perceive as Cal’s betrayal. Their anger grows and tragic consequences ensue when they discover Cal’s secret.
Shank is set in a world not usually explored in gay cinema and as a coming out story there is a lot to be admired here. Unfortunately certain aspects of this film never work and that should have been apparent to the film makers early on.
Virgo and Laurent are young, attractive and naked for most of the film but have no chemistry together. At times the audience roared with laughter at Laurent’s soppy glances, terrible timing and absurd delivery. Despite what another reviewer has said, this did not “break the tension”. These moments simply drew sharp attention to the amateurish mistakes made by the director and the problems with the script.
Marc Laurent’s performance as Olivier was dreadful. He might be a passable actor in his native French, but he lacked the experience and talent to give a nuanced performance in English. He simply couldn’t convey the necessary combination of vulnerability and strength that would make him desirable to Cal and the audience. I didn’t believe that the street tough would go for someone like Olivier.
In contrast, the sexual tension between Cal and Jonno was electric. Tom Bott was completely believable as the sexy and dangerous Jonno. Bott’s performance was flawless, subtly portraying a range of complex conflicting emotions.
Alice Payne turned in a promising performance as Nessa, and Wayne Virgo in the lead managed to hold the film together.
Near the end of the film a series of events occur that simply didn’t seem plausible in the grander scope of the movie. We are asked to believe that a well-educated adult would act in a manner that contradicts common sense. His decisions are made doubly confusing with the final (contrived) revelation. There are no realistic consequences to the any of the character’s actions. We are also subjected to some heavy handed imagery and a few film school clichés.
If you’re into queer cinema you will likely find something to enjoy in this first effort from director Simon Pearce. However, I think most audiences, gay or straight, won’t find the movie nearly as compelling as it should have been.