By Adam Lambert
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This article is over 12 years, 11 months old
Director: Simon Pearce; Release date: 11 September
Issue 339

Shank is a film about Cal, who spends his time driving round with fellow gang members hospitalising strangers on the streets of his home city. He hides that he is gay until he meets Olivier, a French student who shows him an alternative life.

At a time when prejudiced crap like Bruno makes a box office hit, we need more films like this – films that show real people coming to terms with their sexuality and hopefully confronting and dispelling the homophobic ideas in the heads of those who see them.

The best films of this type show how the backward ideas of people can change, including those of the person coming out. This is the case with Cal. Shank opens with Cal meeting someone off the internet for sex – and then breaking their nose and driving off (a rather extreme case of denial). After meeting Olivier, Cal’s attitudes are transformed.

However, it is only Cal’s homophobia that is changed during the course of the film, unlike that of the other gang members. I didn’t want to see some fairytale with an unrealistic happy ending, but it is incredibly bleak.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have value. I believe most people viewing it would be sickened by the actions of the gang. But the producers are also trying to encourage empathy with the reasons the gang members act the way they do. On this level I think the film fails.

The attempt to explain the gang’s behaviour is done far too brashly and far too late, and while I wanted to feel otherwise I just felt angry towards them.

Shank is stark, gritty and graphic. On one level the subject matter necessitates this – but sadly this also creates a barrier to the film being shown to young people.

This is an interesting film, and it should be applauded for attempting to deal with some really tough issues – even though it felt like it tried to cover a bit too much. It fosters empathy towards the victims of homophobia, but sees little way forward for dealing with LGBT oppression except on an individual level.

Shank will make you think, but don’t go and see it if you want something to make you smile.

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