out of Five
Running time: 100
Shank boasts some lively direction and has a couple of nice ideas but is ultimately let down by a repetitive script, some poor performances and a dodgy central message.
What's it all about?
Directed by Mo Ali, Shank is set in dystopian 2015 London, where food is scarce and the inner cities are ruled by gangs. Kedar Williams-Stirling stars as Junior, the youngest member of the non-violent Paper Chaserz gang that includes his older brother Rager (Ashley 'Bashy' Thomas), ladies' man Sweet Boy (Jan Uddin), motor-mouth Craze (Michael Socha) and trainers-obsessed Kickz (Adam Deacon).
However, when Rager is murdered by vicious rival Tugz (Jerome Holder), Junior swears revenge and urges the other members of his gang to help him track down and kill Tugz. Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of three members of the Slaughter Gurlz: Tash (Kaya Scodelario), Ree Ree (Jennie Jacques) and Lexy (Rheanne Murray).
You know things are bad in Cameron's Britain, because after a frenetic chase sequence, Shanks opens with a pan along a typical inner city street to reveal a man shitting on the pavement and a topless prostitute. Sadly, beyond a few lines about food shortages and shops offering Kentucky Fried Pigeon, that's about as sophisticated as Shank gets.
Mo Ali's direction is extremely lively (possibly a bit too lively), throwing in all manner of editing techniques and whizzy camera angles and including some imaginative animated sequences that work well, particularly when used to illustrate Junior's revenge fantasies. The performances are mostly fine, but they're let down by Kaya Scodelario (so great in Skins, so rubbish here) and, unfortunately, Williams-Stirling, who mumbles much of his narration and doesn't really convince as the grieving, revenge-obsessed teen.
However, the film's biggest problem is its painfully slow pacing and its tediously repetitive script, which just drags the Paper Chaserz from gang to gang without doing anything interesting as they look for Tugz. Similarly, the film has a really dodgy central message about revenge and knife crime and “repping your yard” (and ting) that isn't at all mitigated by what it thinks is an anti-revenge ending.
In short, Shank starts well but quickly becomes derivative and disappointing, thanks to a tedious script, some poor performances and a dodgy central message.