Charles Griffin | DeLand, FL USA | 08/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I just watched "Shiner" a couple of days ago and some of the scenes still stay with me. It's a terrific little British gangster movie, with colorful characters and an interesting mix of drama and humor. Basically, the plot revolves around a small-time boxing promotor with a shady background named Billy "Shiner" Simpson played my Michael Caine. Without giving away too many details, the plot involves a murder mystery and revenge. In this respect, the film is very much like Caine's 1971 ganster film, "Get Carter". The difference is that his character in "Carter" was a young cool, calculating, extremely efficient killer out for revenge. In "Shiner", his character is older, more desperate, and far less efficient. But Michael Caine's performance is a powerhouse. He portrays a man who believes himself to be larger than life and in total control, but is actually as vulnerable as the victims he bullies. The movie revolves around his character and you cannot take your eyes off him. It's a shame that the film went direct-to-video because very few people will see this amazing performance.As for the other aspects of the film, I have no complaints. The other actor's were ideal for their roles. The jazz-filled soundrack subtly accentuates every scene. And the screenplay is filled with interesting humor and emotion, with a touch of cockney flavor.The only real problem I have with the DVD transfer is that the audio track wasn't distributed in 5.1 surround sound, as it states on the DVD package, which is a little disappointing...maybe I just got a bad disk. But that is a small quibble considering the rewards of witnessing a great actor doing what he does best!"
Back to the Carter days...
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 03/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This tough British crime film stars Michael Caine as a violent-tempered boxing promoter, Billy Simpson (nicknamed Shiner) who's betting everything on his son to win an upcoming welterweight match against an American fighter--championed by none other than Martin Landau as an equally tough promoter. Things do not exactly go as Shiner hoped they would....That's the plot focus but it's really the milieu of the British boxing world and Caine's outstanding performance that drive this baby home. Shiner not only has a violent temper; he's also convinced everyone's out to get him. Invoking the same gritty Cockney accent and gangster manner of the lead in the great 1971 Mike Hodges film Get Carter, Caine goes all out. You can see his whole face contort when he's in a rage (often). Compare this to his performance in The Cider House Rules and you can see the terrific range he has.The supporting cast is very strong with excellent performances by Kenneth Cranham (from the notorious Hellraiser 2), Frances Barber, and many others. This is a great follow-up to Get Carter and an excellent addition to the director's (John Irvin) body of work. Check out his City of Industry with Harvey Keitel, another terrific tough crime film."
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 08/14/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I remember learning in high school English Lit several decades ago that there are three basic elements to a story: protagonist, antagonist, conflict. To me, "protagonist" implies someone that the reader (listener or watcher) can root for. Hold that thought.
In SHINER, Michael Caine plays Billy "Shiner" Simpson, a British boxing promoter so brutal and unsavory that he's been excluded from the "legitimate" fight world and limited to fringe bouts. Now, he's maneuvered his own son, "Golden Boy" Eddie, into an un-licensed match-up with an American lightweight title holder managed by Frank Spedding (Martin Landau). The big event in a dumpy arena is the high point of Billy's professional and personal life. And, by the way, he's bet everything he and his family own on the outcome. In any case, Eddie throws the fight in the second round. Later, as Billy angrily confronts his son in a blighted lot down by the railroad yards, the latter is shot dead by a hidden assailant. Totally bereft, Simpson sets out to find Eddie's killer and exact revenge. By this time, knowledge of Billy's character leads the viewer to expect that the vengeance won't be pretty.
Even another riveting performance by the great Michael Caine can't obscure the ugliness of this film. Aside from perhaps Eddie, who isn't around long enough, there's absolutely no major character in the plot worthy or capable of engaging the viewer's sympathy. They're all vicious, violent people: Billy, his two thuggish bodyguards, and Frank. A scene wherein Billy holds a gun to a pregnant woman's swollen belly is particularly noxious. Even Billy's two adult daughters are revealed to be chips off the old block when they get into a hair-pulling, slap fight.
The ending to SHINER is notably anti-climactic and grubby. And, before I forget, there's a subplot involving the police investigation of the fatal beating of a fighter in one of Billy's previously arranged exhibitions - a subplot so completely tangential as to be hardly worth this mention.
SHINER: Reaching for the Gold Ring
Martin Asiner | jersey city, nj United States | 08/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"SHINER is the rare movie in which nearly the entire cast have the same unreachable goal: to better themselves at all costs. Director John Irvin does a masterful job of presenting a variety of people, most of whom who ought to know better, who have spent a lifetime in the shadows of their more successful competitors and now struggle to stake out their own claim in a world that prizes only the gold ring of success. Michael Caine is Billy (Shiner) Simpson, a brute thug of a small time boxing promoter who is sure that he has been denied top tier status as a promoter only because of his humble origins. He has the drive to succeed but not the boxing talent. Now, his son, Eddie(Michael Marsden), is ready to fight for the light heavyweight championship of England. Eddie is the ticket that will let Billy pass through the ropes that have heretofore kept him out. Billy is so sure that Eddie will win that he bets his entire stake on a win. Eddie feels the huge pressure of knowing that his father's future rests solely on his fists, and he has to battle his own insecurities that gnaw at him even as he steps into the ring. Martin Landau has a standout role as the American promoter who cannot hide his disdain for the upstart Billy. The tragedy of SHINER is not based on a boxing loss nor would a win by Eddie validate the collective insecure egos of all concerned. The greatness of SHINER lies in its ability to evoke even a wretched sympathy for those who whine about their missed opportunity to hit it big."