Shiner (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

In the past, we have discussed some of the warning signs of a bad film, the sure-fire ways to determine if a film will be a lemon. You don't need to pop it in the DVD player. You don't even need to read the video box. You only need to read the warning signs. You know it will probably stink if:
  • the film was not pre-screened for critics.
  • the film was made many months, or even years, before it was released.
  • the director asked to have his real name removed from the credits.
  • the film was released during the times of year when nobody goes to the movies. This is especially ominous when the film is released immediately after a peak time (post-Christmas, post-summer), because in such a case the studio could have released it a week or two earlier, in prime time, and chose not to.
  • the actors appear at the premiere in Groucho disguises.
  • the film stars Jeff Fahey.

Add one more to the list:

  • the film stars a beloved actor who just won a major award, but the studio still won't promote the film or, worse yet, won't even release it.

Who is more appealing than Michael Caine, perennial everyman? I love the guy. He's not a great actor in the sense that Ken Branagh or Meryl Streep are great actors. I suppose if you wanted to hire someone to play a disagreeable Estonian dwarf, Branagh would learn to speak Estonian and spend months on his knees to nail the role, while Caine would be a loveable, 6'2" Estonian dwarf with a Cockney accent. But he's a great star, and can be just as good as Branagh if he's cast properly. When I see him appear on the screen, I feel that he will deliver his character and/or some entertainment. I guess most people react the same way. Sir Michael was awarded an Oscar on March 26, 2000. This film, Shiner,  was ready to go shortly thereafter. You would think that would be a great time to release it and promote it, right? "Starring beloved Oscar-winning Michael Caine". Nope. They hid it from sight.

Several of the other warning signs appeared as well. The director used his real name, and Fahey was nowhere to be seen, but forget about pre-screening and off-season. It was worse than that. This film had no theatrical release at all in the USA. The marketers didn't even release it to the home market until two years after it was made.

So you don't really need to read any further. You know it's gonna munch the mango. And it does not disappoint.

Caine isn't the least bit loveable here. Nor is his fellow lovable geezer, Martin Landau. Maybe that was the problem. Caine plays a man about as unlikable as any in the history of film. He's Billy "Shiner" Simpson, a bully and a low-rent thug of a fight promoter who feels that he's about to have his sleazy life vindicated by promoting a fight in which his son vies for a world championship.


There is full frontal and rear nudity from Andy Serkis.

There is brief female nudity and thong action from the ring card girls

His son loses the fight. The same night, an assassin shoots his son. Billy assumes that all the foul play is related to his son having thrown the fight, so he takes his goons through London and beats up everyone, or tries to, gradually becoming more desperate and more frantic. At one point he was probably pistol-whipping the queen mum. "Talk, old women, you put the fix in on my boy, didn't you?". He reaches his lowest point when he holds a gun on the pregnant belly of the wife of one of his trusted associates. Everyone around him can see the deterioration in his mental condition, but they can't stop the carnage because they are either too afraid of him or too loyal to him.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic format, 2.35:1

The film's finale turns into a virtual Tarantinofest, with various people on a rooftop, breaking each other's arms and blasting each other at short range with powerful firearms, while the police are nowhere to be seen.

Part of the "hook" of the story is a classical parallel. Billy has three kids. One is just after his money and power, one is browbeaten by him, and only the least-respected one really seems to care for him. This superficial resemblance to King Lear didn't really fool anyone into thinking that Shiner was a Shakespearian masterpiece, but the few people who have seen it tend to like it a lot better than the critics did.  

The Critics Vote

  • 1/5

  • General consensus in the U.K.: one and a half stars. Daily Mail 0/10, Daily Telegraph 1/10, Independent 5/10, The Guardian 4/10, The Observer 4/10, The Times 7/10, Evening Standard 7/10, The Sun 5/10, The Express 4/10, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is probably a C-. It won't appeal to fans of boxing, because there's very little and it's poorly done, but the film may have some appeal to people who like ultra-violent gangster films. Others - stay away. I'm with the critics on this one. It's routine, predictable, ugly, and a waste of talented performers.

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