Director/ Producer: Mo Ali
Writer: Paul Van Carter
Release Date: March 26 2010
Running Time: 90 mins
Starring: Kedar Williams-Stirling, Kaya Scodelario, Ashley Bashy Thomas, Adam Deacon, Michael Socha, Jan Uddin, Robert Fucilla, Terry Stone, Robbie Gee, Luke de Woolfson, Jerome Holder
London, 2015: King William rules, the government no longer directs funds, police reinforcements are being ordered, society is rotting from the inside out and Junior, “The Gettaway Kid”, is on the run.
A dizzying opening chase sequence mixing hand held “shaky cam”, inventive camera angles and parkour, gives false promise to a first offering from aspiring director Mo Ali. Almost inspiring a walk-out, Shank combines unconvincing acting, unlikeable one dimensional characters and an appalling script from Paul Van Carter, perhaps to be his first and last attempt at screen writing.
Dystopian films have been churned out over the last year, serving up some respectable offerings both humorous and moving that truly injected some much needed originality into this well-worn genre (The Road, Zombieland, Daybreakers…). Shank tries to make its mark on the genre in its youth market appeal by following a gang of teens coping in a decaying future.
Our protagonist, Junior (Kedar Williams-Stirling), sticks with his brother, Rager (Ashley Bashy Thomas), who acts as the daddy of a group of misplaced and supposedly endearingly comical youths – ladies “man” Sweet Boy (Jan Uddin) who drools winning lines like “Are your feet tired because you have been running around my mind all day?”; trainer obsessed Kickz (Adam Deacon); the supposedly ex-army Craze (Michael Socha) and Dutty the dog.
Using an abandoned school and church as bases, the “family” are “paper chasers”, preferring business to violence: “Don’t do no killing, just robbing and that, even if we have to go hungry.” Sticking “tight like brothers” they make a living by stealing “munchies” to then sell on for “paper”. When a heist goes wrong, seeking the help of the “olders”, the gang must decide if they will break their vow against violence.
Ali’s futuristic vision is pretty unimaginative with bazaars, slop buckets and people excreting in the streets. How the city came to be in such a state of ruin is never explained, nor are the shots of well-dressed people eating civilized meals around outdoor café tables.
A Drum and Bass soundtrack accompanies Ali’s attempts to give Shank a fresh modern look by combining superimposed graphs showing the rise of murders, computer game graphic style effects to replicate Junior’s high and Gorillaz style cartoons to depict his dreams. Unfortunately Ali is trying too hard and should go back to basics, starting with a strong story and script to shape. Continuously moving strobe light effects attempt to conceal a poorly choreographed fight sequence while completely omitting the dog fight scene merely reinforces suspicions about the size, or lack, of Shank’s budget.
The script rather irritatingly tries to be clever, delving into chaos theory through gang leader Beano’s (Robbie Gee) incoherent outpour as he describes his rise to notoriety and entry into adulthood: “Looking at London like it was some giant gash waiting to get mashed… For every action, there’s a reaction”.
The “preparing for battle” montages are ridiculously unbelievable, as is the fight on the top deck of an old London bus and there are far too many bonding and juvenile messing sequences between gang members that offer nothing but padding to an excruciatingly long 90 minutes – the dull alcohol drug fuelled gym hall session, the painful indecision before the final sequence, the pointless gratuitous violence as a van is trashed….
If Junior’s parting advice “Try and find where the beauty is hiding in the squalor” is applied to Shank then it’s only redeeming features are the existence of Kentucky Fried Pigeon in Ali’s floundering world; some brave attempts at inventive camera work and graphics; the menacing look of pure evil Tugz (Jerome Holder) pulls off and Junior’s convincing anguish and pain at his brother’s death, even though it is hard to feel anything but relief at the departure of Rager, yet another sloppily constructed character.