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Movie Reviews

Michael Caine, Martin Landau, Frances Barber, Frank Harper, Matthew Marsden, Andy Serkis
Written by Scott Cherry
Directed by John Irvin

Released by Geoff Reeve Films (UK) and Miramax (US)

Another movie to come our way in a long line of British gangster movies. For all of these movies we have one man and one man only to thank, Guy Ritchie. Since the fantastic Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels hits cinemas back in 1998, a large percentage of our film output has been a a wannabee. Most fall short of the mark (Love, Honor & Obey and Circus), some surprise with delight (Gangster No. 1, Sexy Beast and Snatch). Shiner falls into the first category.

Pairing Oscar winners Michael Caine and Martin Landau (Ed Wood), Shiner revolves around Billy Simpson (Caine), a small time boxing promoter about to embark on the biggest day of his life, a day that sees his son 'Golden Boy' in a world title fight in London. Simpson's whole financial future rides on the bout that sees his son opposite US promoter Frank Spedding's (Martin Landau) champion. When Golden Boy loses the match, Simpson is adamant that someone has got to his young fighter, and sets off to find out who is responsible.

So, the plot of Shiner differs slightly from what we've seen before, but the film still tries to be something more, something that it isn't, something it is plainly ripping off. Take the central two bumbling henchman, who provide some of the movie's lighter moments in the opening act, all too reminiscent of Ritchie's work. One of the two character's, Stonely is played by Frank Harper, who we've seen in many British movies as of late. I love this guys work, and here he is given a much deserved larger role, one where he digs in his heels into and makes the most of it. I first came across Harper in Lock Stock as Dog and have pretty much loved him in all he's done since. Saying this he banter at the beginning of the movie between him and Andy Serkis (this guy is the voice of Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings movies) seems too contrived and doesn't really gel. This does however, get better later in the movie.

Martin Landau does good as the American promoter, but you feel, largely due to his lack of screen time and character depth that he is totally wasted. There simply isn't enough for this accomplished actor to work with. Indeed all of the good stuff has been given to the film's lead, Michael Caine, who is probably the best thing about this movie. His path in the film leads him from a the top of his game to the depths of despair as he tries to determine just what went wrong on the big night. He shows the old Michael Caine, in a part very much reminiscent of Jack Carter in the 1971 movie Get Carter. This is a violent role, but Caine also manages to display a more sensitive side to his character.

The first part of the film moves at a rather sluggish pace and Scott Cherry's script is fairly dull in places, although director Jon Irvin (The Dogs Of War, Raw Deal) handles it fairly well. The big fight takes place about half way in and to be honest takes too long to get there. I was fairly bored by the time we arrived at this point. If the film had focussed more on the more interesting second half, and had left out more of the first, I think Shiner would have been a much better movie. A lot of the material in the opening scenes was necessary, but then a lot of it wasn't.

It's good to have seen Michael Caine back kicking ass on the streets of London, but i'm afraid Shiner as a whole didn't do it for me.

2 out of 5

Paul Heath
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