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In SHINER, Michael Caine plays Billy "Shiner" Simpson, a British boxing promoter so brutal and unsavory that he's been excluded from the "legitimate" fight world and limited to fringe bouts. Now, he's maneuvered his own son, "Golden Boy" Eddie, into an un-licensed match-up with an American lightweight title holder managed by Frank Spedding (Martin Landau). The big event in a dumpy arena is the high point of Billy's professional and personal life. And, by the way, he's bet everything he and his family own on the outcome. In any case, Eddie throws the fight in the second round. Later, as Billy angrily confronts his son in a blighted lot down by the railroad yards, the latter is shot dead by a hidden assailant. Totally bereft, Simpson sets out to find Eddie's killer and exact revenge. By this time, knowledge of Billy's character leads the viewer to expect that the vengeance won't be pretty.
Even another riveting performance by the great Michael Caine can't obscure the ugliness of this film. Aside from perhaps Eddie, who isn't around long enough, there's absolutely no major character in the plot worthy or capable of engaging the viewer's sympathy. They're all vicious, violent people: Billy, his two thuggish bodyguards, and Frank. A scene wherein Billy holds a gun to a pregnant woman's swollen belly is particularly noxious. Even Billy's two adult daughters are revealed to be chips off the old block when they get into a hair-pulling, slap fight.Read more ›
Basically, the plot revolves around a small-time boxing promotor with a shady background named Billy "Shiner" Simpson played my Michael Caine. Without giving away too many details, the plot involves a murder mystery and revenge. In this respect, the film is very much like Caine's 1971 ganster film, "Get Carter". The difference is that his character in "Carter" was a young cool, calculating, extremely efficient killer out for revenge. In "Shiner", his character is older, more desperate, and far less efficient. But Michael Caine's performance is a powerhouse. He portrays a man who believes himself to be larger than life and in total control, but is actually as vulnerable as the victims he bullies. The movie revolves around his character and you cannot take your eyes off him. It's a shame that the film went direct-to-video because very few people will see this amazing performance.
As for the other aspects of the film, I have no complaints. The other actor's were ideal for their roles. The jazz-filled soundrack subtly accentuates every scene. And the screenplay is filled with interesting humor and emotion, with a touch of cockney flavor.
The only real problem I have with the DVD transfer is that the audio track wasn't distributed in 5.1 surround sound, as it states on the DVD package, which is a little disappointing...maybe I just got a bad disk. But that is a small quibble considering the rewards of witnessing a great actor doing what he does best!
That's the plot focus but it's really the milieu of the British boxing world and Caine's outstanding performance that drive this baby home. Shiner not only has a violent temper; he's also convinced everyone's out to get him. Invoking the same gritty Cockney accent and gangster manner of the lead in the great 1971 Mike Hodges film Get Carter, Caine goes all out. You can see his whole face contort when he's in a rage (often). Compare this to his performance in The Cider House Rules and you can see the terrific range he has.
The supporting cast is very strong with excellent performances by Kenneth Cranham (from the notorious Hellraiser 2), Frances Barber, and many others. This is a great follow-up to Get Carter and an excellent addition to the director's (John Irvin) body of work. Check out his City of Industry with Harvey Keitel, another terrific tough crime film.
It seems odd to think that Shiner started life as a Shakespeare play but, really, that's how it happened and the end result of Scott Cherry and John Irvin's take on King Lear is the Bard does boxing.
Owing more to rhyming slang than rhyming couplets, Michael Caine shows a return to form here as Billy 'Shiner' Simpson, a "cheap little boxing promoter" on the verge of his lifetime's ambition - to have a champion, in the form of his son Eddie 'Golden Boy' Simpson (played adeptly by Matthew Marsden). The stage is set for his boy to win, but tragedy and deception loom at every turn, as the seeds he has sown in the past come to bear terrible fruit.
In recent years there has been a slew of East End gritty, gangland dramas, but many of them insist on polishing up the edges of everything to give it that slick, high fashion finish, popularised by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Irvin's Shiner, however, owes more to the grittier-edged crime thrillers of the Seventies, such as Get Carter - Caine says in the accompanying Making Of featurette that he views this film as part of a trilogy along with Get Carter and Mona Lisa.
He turns in a picture-stealing performance as the over-ambitious Shiner, menacing and yet able to find the humour in his role. Andy Serkis and Frank Harper, as his henchmen Mel and Stoney, hit this balancing act between humour and violence spot on, providing "capering" relief from the darker moments of the film. "They'll be famous now," Caine says in the later interview and Serkis certainly is - he's the voice of Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings series.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
'Shiner' wants to be a bare-fisted neo-noir, a sort of mashing together of Dassin's 'Night and the City' and Boorman's 'Point Blank' (the original 'Get Carter' will do, too), with... Read morePublished on November 17, 2012 by Brian
A lousy ending detracts from a fine performance by Michael Caine. He is worth your time.Published on June 7, 2004 by John Bowes
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