All that's left is…REVENGE.
In the professional world of boxing, it can be a hit or miss success (literally). For London based fight promoter/mobster Billy "Shiner" Simpson (Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters) one match could pave the way to glory…or bring all that he's worked for crashing down. The biggest battle of his life will be fought by his son, Eddie "Golden Boy" Simpson (Matthew Marsden, Black Hawk Down), against an American boxer from Chicago, Illinois, promoted by one of Billy's rivals (Martin Landau, Ed Wood). Not only does Billy have a lot of monetary value riding on this fight, but also a heavyweight championship title. As one of Billy's brightest nights edges closer, his past begins to catch up to him in the from of snooping detectives who are questioning Billy about the death of a bare knuckle boxer. As the ringside bell tolls, the boxing match gets underway…sending Billy spiraling into revenge, desperation and bitter betrayal! As a side note, the film is loosely based on the play "King Lear."
The best compliment I can give Shiner is that it was better than I expected it to be. I was anticipating a low rent mobster movie filled with xeroxed Tarantino dialogue and lots of English accents (I was right on one account). After the hit Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, it seemed as if these small time English mobster movies were all the rage (the biggest of these was easily Guy Ritchie's decent Snatch). While Shiner isn't great, it does showcase Michael Caine's excellent acting abilities. As the title character, Caine puts forth a raw energy that bubbles under every pore in his body. I liked the fact that Billy isn't a nice guy—he's thuggish, brutal, and self-centered, making for a much more complex and satisfying film. His role won critical praise even though the film has gone largely unnoticed, and to be honest, there's a reason for that. While I enjoyed Shiner enough, I wasn't bowled over by it. It often feels slow and dull when Caine isn't on screen, and the script doesn't include much in the way of originality (note to filmmakers: giving mobsters "funny, unique" character ticks is neither original nor interesting anymore). Martin Landau as an American boxing promoter is sorely wasted on just a few brief scenes, while the rest of the cast is made up of largely unknowns who have such thick accents that I had a hard time understanding what was going on. To reiterate, Shiner is worth seeing if only for Caine's outstanding performance. Otherwise, the movie is just a mediocre thriller that will fade from your memory as quickly as it fades from your TV screen.
Shiner is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I've heard rumblings that the transfer was originally shot in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and if this is the case, then this print has been trimmed down considerably. Otherwise, this is a very sharp looking image that sports fine detail, colors, and black levels. Aside of a smidgen of edge enhancement, this is a very pleasing picture. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in both English and French. I wasn't all that impressed by this 5.1 mix—while there are some directional effects, overall dynamic range and fidelity seem to be missing. However, what the track lacks in excitement in makes up for in a crystal clear sound mix. Also included on this disc are English subtitles. The extra features on Shiner are fairly limited—included on this disc is a full frame theatrical trailer for the movie and some trailers for Texas Rangers, Disney's The Kid, Bravo Two Zero, and Gangs of New York.
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