Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Conny van Dyke, Scott Stepp, Derris Nile, Nicholas T. King, David Zelina
Director: Christian Calson
Genres: Drama, Gay & Lesbian
An intensely original and daring film, Shiner explores the dark crevices of love, desire and passion. The film revolves around three couples whose intimate, intense and occasionally abusive relationships provide frameworks... more »
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What a Mess!
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 05/11/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"What an unfortunate mess is "Shiner." I wanted to like this over-the-top, anti-film aspirant, and in fact found a number of moments with powerful resonance. Sadly, those moments are few and far between. While I appreciate some of what Calson was attempting, any advantage aspired to by bare bones, no budget cinematography was destroyed with some truly atrocious editing that benefited the movie not at all.
While bad acting abounds in low budget (and big budget) cinema, Shiner has some remarkably bad performances that are nearly painful to watch. In particular the "straight" couple Linda and Young Guy. These are the two most poorly written characters offering almost nothing to the story. The acting is so abysmal and neither actor seems capable of resisting smirking or cracking up as they drearily drop their lines with an appalling lack of skill. The choppy editing almost lends the feeling that these roles were entirely gratuitous and dropped in to avoid the films being stereotypically cast as an oddball gay film. It would have been better off as such.
With all that is going wrong for it, there are several performances that seem to capture what Calson was hoping to get. In particular the story centering on Bob and Tim. These are the two most richly drawn characters and offer the most rewards with genuinely captivating performances by Nicholas T. King (Bob) and David Zelinas (Tim). Tim is a boxer with some serious issues. Remarkably low self esteem is disguised by an almost cartoon like arrogance that he wears like armour plating. Obsessed with Tim, the seemingly harmless yet ultimately creepy Bob, stalks the boxer in clasic cat-and-mouse fashion. When the tables are turned and hunter becomes the hunted, the resulting in the film's only genuine emotional catharsis. In a film so artificially hard-edged (that's a compliment) one character MUST have that revelatory break through (or breakdown, as the case proves here) and the final confrontation between Bob and Tim provide Zelinas and King opportunity to display some real acting chops.
As played by Scott Stepp and Derris Nile, Tony and Danny seem to be the focus of the movie, and despite some bravado moments of their own (including one truly disturbing scene revealing the sex/violence obsession), but they can't seem to escape a cartoon-like artifice and it's difficult to look at - or beyond their seeming one note symphony and find anything other than the obvious.
Ultimately this same raw material could (and should) be used to tell this story in better fashion. Alas, there really isn't much to recommend this yet, the performances by Messrs. King and Zelinas, really do offer something special and a glimpse of what might have been and are ultimately worth seeing."
Is there a rating lower than 1 star??
ardar88 | Falls Church, VA USA | 12/15/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"A complete waste of time. This is an incomprehensible non-movie about a bunch of low-life sado-masochists.
The camera work, done with a single hand held camera will make you dizzy as will the incompetent editing. There's no plot that I could keep track of. I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. If I don't "get it," and I don't, the problem isn't with me.
The make-up effects are laughable. I think they used red nail polish to simulate blood. Even ketchup would have worked better.
An even better choice would be to skip this waste of time entirely. How do movies this bad ever get produced? It's a mystery...
Difficult But Worthwhile
Jon Folland | Sacramento, CA | 01/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shiner is a difficult film for most folks. I can see why so many of the reviews are so 'nasty' considering the film itself is 'nasty'. Violence begets violence and a shocking films usually begets shocking reviews. I'm always interested in films that are scored so low and high with little else in between.
The film was marketed to a gay and lesbian audience (as the gay Fight Club) but it's scope is a lot larger. While it does have central gay themes it doesn't cater or appease most gay audiences. It does the opposite. I saw the film because I heard it had tons of walk-outs at festivals and that it had pissed off tons of viewers. I was very happy when I saw it was available on DVD.
The film was produced in a way as to make it seem bare. Like a porno or a snuff film, it looks bleak and scary. Violence erupts without notice and sex and sexuality is completely out of control. The attacks on the films quality are really attacks on its subject matter which is to equate homosexual relationships with relationships where couples like to 'hit' or 'abuse' each other. This is a heavy pill to swallow but one that's unique and refreshing from most independent films I've seen. When you listen to the audio commentary and watch the interview with Calson and the behind-the-scenes on the DVD, you'll understand that Calson was trying to piss folks off. He made choices actively. He was trying to make you aware you were watching a film. Shots go out of focus, sound blows out, actors in an emotional scene become actors in a porn scene. The film has a vacuum effect much like porn yet it's emotions and tragedy are farther reaching. The film belongs to a category of films called 'Anti-Films' or films where the medium doesn't try to suggest it's anything but that, film.
There is tons of nudity and the behavior is very ugly and downright gory, both physically and emotionally. The blood and violence exists on multiple planes in the same way that say 'Kill Bill' did. Sometimes blood is real looking and other times it looks fake and invites your laughter. The main movie I would compare Shiner to is 'The Piano Teacher', which is a very ugly character study of a sado-masochistic piano teacher by Michael Haneke. That film is equally disturbing and dirty yet pays off if you can laugh at it to release it's hold and pressure on you as well as let it get under your skin.
If you are looking for a film that you will either love or hate, then Shiner is for you. If you want a sweet romantic film that will allow you to forget your troubles and drift away into another world, then this isn't it. You have been warned. You will most likely love it or hate it and there'll be little in between. What is remarkable is that someone would make a film as daring and powerful their first time out. What is also worth examining is why someone would see the world this way and what Calson is trying to say about sex, gay culture, and violence. Perhaps that it exists without warning and commands so much of our terror and attention."
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/12/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Badly acted, poorly photographed, and with a script that is made up mostly of profanity, Shiner has very little to recommend it, and to say that the film warrants merit because it delves into a culture that has never really been explored before is perhaps a bit of a stretch. Yet the film's obviously contentious subject matter may have been a little more bearable if it had been a better-made film.
Shiner is all about the exploration of fetish and kink; well actually, it's all about the exploration of "violent kink." Apparently there are people out there in society who get their sexual thrills from being beaten up and from beating up others. Whether these people actually exist is pretty much beside the point, because Shiner makes it plainly obvious that they're out there, and they're supposed to be rapaciously satisfying their violent sexual desires.
Centered around three dysfunctional couples, Shiner charts how violence and eroticism are inextricably intertwined and how it's supposed to be near impossible to see where one begins and the other ends. Tony (Scott Stepp) and Danny (Derris Nile) are two supposedly straight guys who enhance their relationship by beating one another up. Danny is so into getting hit that he wears his bruises like badges, his banged up face and chest a source of ineffable pride. While Danny masturbates, Tony pummels him with his fists, so that he'll get a good "shiner" and achieve orgasm.
The film opens as the couple meets Charles (Ryan Sotoros), in a bar. Together, they lure him into a back alley where he performs oral sex on Danny. Afterwards they beat him up, obviously getting off on the kinky scenario. But this is just a prelude and a homoerotic stimulant to their own private encounters, because later at home they act out their kinky desires on each other.
While Danny and Tony explore the limits of their relationship, Bob (Nicholas T. King), a timid and timorous young attendant, obsesses and stalks Tim (David Zelina), a third-rate boxer who works out at the local gym. Bob admits that he likes to look at hunky Tim, watching him work out, shower, and change in the locker room. Tim is even aware that Bob has stolen items from his locker for sexual gratification.
But Tim - who gets off on smelling old gym shoes - begins to feel threatened by Bob, eventually challenging him, and angrily asking him what he wants. Is he going to beat Bob up? Well, Tim is, at heart, a coward so perhaps he won't. Instead, Tim uses his Adonis-like looks and hunky body to attract the attention of anyone whose admiration may compensate for his own lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
A third couple is included to add the heterosexual element to the story, and perhaps also to show that straights have kinks too. Appearing like they're in a totally separate film. Elaine (Conny Van Dyke), Tony's roommate and Tim's sister, is dating Reg (Seth Harrington). Elaine kind of gets off on violence, as well, but Reg seems rather kind of confused about it all.
But by far, the most interesting dynamic takes place between Bob and Tim - probably because there's no gratuitous violence involved. Ensconced in a game of cat and mouse, the sexual tension between them both is rife. Tim feels that he has the upper hand, he walks naked around the gym, slamming open the doors of janitor's closets and toilet stalls, and calling out Bob's name. "I know you're looking at me from someplace, Bob. I'll show you what I know you want. You just have to ask for it."
Exhibitionist Tim craves to see the expressions on the faces of anyone admiring his physical attributes, his tight boxer's body, and his ruggedly handsome good looks. Tony and Danny, however, are far too over-the-top in their fetishes to imbue much sympathy with the viewer and they frustratingly dance around their attraction to each other. Their relationship, obviously the most exploitative and sensationalistic, is the one that shocks us the most.
Most of the acting never raises above the level of bad porn, with Nicholas T. King as David Zelina, as Bob and Tim, the only true standouts. It is their characters that haunt one after the movie is over. Zelina is not only a stunningly sexy man, but he delivers a powerhouse of menacing, interior aggravation on the verge of a meltdown. His glaring expressions, line delivery, and body language make Tim all the more hot-blooded and petrifying.
This is a rough, extremely low budget example of underground filmmaking. Shot mostly in people's apartments, exclusive gymnasiums, and in deserted parking lots, Shiner has a gritty, raw, almost half finished look. There's lots of blood, although the blood looks obviously fake, and the violence is muffled by lots of sharp, quick edits. Scenes build to physical and sexual climaxes emphasizing the idea of pain and pleasure as something that is inextricably interlinked.
There is probably a good movie buried deep beneath the surface of Shiner and there is certainly a story to tell about these sort of cruelty-dependent and freaked out relationships. It's just a pity that the movie sinks under the weight of its own brutal and exploitative nature. In the end, Shiner comes off as an emotionally bereft and bankrupt affair, a homophobic tirade that is full of unadulteratingly bad and almost unbelievable behaviour. Mike Leonard August 05.