2004 - NR - 89 Mins.
|Director: Christian Calson
|Producer: Christian Calson
|Written By: Christian Calson
|Starring: Scott Stepp, Derris Nile, Connie VanDyke, David Zelina, Carolyn Crotty
|Review by: Harrison Cheung
|Official Site: www.shinermovie.com/
‘Shiner’ is a strange indie film that takes aim at ‘The Fight Club’ and interprets bonding-through-fighting as thinly veiled lust. A low-no budget feature, ‘Shiner’ compensates for its poor production qualities with its outrageous premise that love, sex and possession can also manifest itself through a good punch in the stomach.
A violent friendship
When I first saw David Lynch’s 1986 breakthrough film, ‘Blue Velvet,’ at the Toronto Film Festival, a number of people in the audience stormed out of the screening at the point when Dennis Hopper hits Isabella Rossellini. Perhaps most disturbing was when Rossellini moaned as she was punched. Lynch boldly introduced explicit sadomasochism to the big screen and the audience was polarized.
Look at how far we’ve come since Lynch’s line-crossing shocker. ‘Shiner’ has the same effect. You’re either going to be repulsed by the bloody violence or entranced by first time writer/director Christian Calson’s concepts of passion. A controversial curiosity that made the film festival circuit last year, ‘Shiner’ explores violence in the relationships of three couples.
Danny and Tony are best friends who happen to get their kicks by picking up gay men at bars and bashing them in alleys. However, their relationship grows more intimate when they realize the sexual charge they get from beating each other up.
Tim and Bob are an odd couple. Tim is a boxer who’s had a stalker (Bob) for years. Bob likes to steal items of Tim's clothing. When Tim decides to turn the tables on his stalker, the results are disturbing and improbable as stalker and stalkee try to understand their symbiotic relationship.
After a bad divorce, Linda discovers that she likes to beat up her new boyfriend, Reg. Female empowerment gone awry? Repressed female rage? Or new meaning to the term “whipped?”
Though the ideas are intriguing, ‘Shiner’ suffers from its poor production values and second-rate unknown actors. It also suffers from a script in desperate need of a couple more re-writes. You get the feeling that Calson was going to make a porno movie but decided to, instead, go legit with an art house movie. Acting is amateur and the sex scenes are blatant but not explicit. There’s a hilariously badly edited sequence where one actor masturbates while being punched. Add to that scene some bad sound effects and you’ve got a soft porn gag reel.
If you can think of a fetish, ‘Shiner’ has probably shown it. Fetishes could have been an intriguing subject for a movie (I’m thinking about the upcoming ‘Kinsey’) but instead ‘Shiner’ is like a rolling smorgasbord of outrageously violent and bloody behavior – not for art’s sake. No. All for the sake of titillation.
In some people’s love equation, sex and violence are interchangeable among consenting adults. It’s a shame that this ham fisted amateur production has neither the nuance nor the skill to explore this fringe more competently.