Monday, January 24, 2005

When characters are defined by their sexual kinks, and nothing else, you get Shiner, an odd, unsettling movie by Christian Calson. I must admit that I saw this movie because it seemed to be one of those grungy, edgy underground movies and truth be told, I haven't quite made up my mind about it. The film tells three interconnecting stories; about two men Danny and Tony who get their kicks by beating the heck out of each other, a woman Elaine who likes mild sexual violence, and an amateur boxer who is being stalked by a creepy-crawly gay man. Ultimately though, none of the story-lines manages to make a great impact, although I must admit, the boxer-stalker subplot manages to hit genuinely wierd notes at times.

Writer-director Calson shoots in a gritty, naturalistic home-video syntax that is at odds with his dialogue which is melodramatic to the point of being cringe-worthy. Ultimately though, Shiner fails because it is never able to take us into the protagnists' heads as they fight. The violence never attains the intensity of, say, the boxing scenes in Raging Bull; instead the sounds are oddly muted and we never see the blows landing. In a movie that is about extreme sadomasochism, we never quite see why the characters love being "hit"; instead we merely observe them as freaks in a freaky movie.

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