Here’s the plot synopsis for the movie Shank, copied and pasted from Amazon.com: “Near-future London, where society has collapsed and gangs rule the streets. As the youngest of the Paper Chaserz, 14-year-old Junior strives for the authority of his older brother Rager and the respect of the rest of their gang. When a conflict with a rival gang changes their lives forever, he must decide whether to stay true to his principles or drag them all into a quest for revenge that could get them all killed.”
Why use someone else’s synopsis? Because I couldn’t understand a single word anyone said throughout the entire movie. Everyone has thick, thick, thick London inner-city accents, to the point where it might as well have been another language to my ears. Why didn’t I put on the disc’s subtitles, you ask? Because there aren’t any. Sadly, this robbed me of any enjoyment I might otherwise have gotten from the film.
The dialogue sounds like this: “Gi’ wit’ ter feppin’ shep, yeh? Kimmen’ tu cor shala. No see wah we bottin’ slee, y’know? Dae ker messhin’ wowme. Ket!” Now imagine an entire movie of that, and you’ll begin to get the idea.
Is it horribly ethnocentric of me to complain about not being able to understand someone from another culture? Yes, it is. But it would have been even more ethnocentric of me to demand that the actors “mainstream” their voices for mass consumption. The filmmakers seem to be going for a gritty “underground” feeling, and the dialogue strives to get across that tone with authenticity. I’m glad the actors’ accents are the real deal. That’s all the more reason why subtitles for this disc should have been a priority.
OK, so what’s the tone of the movie? It’s reminiscent of District B13 and its sequel. Someone in England must have decided that the French shouldn’t have a monopoly on the “outrageous parkour stunts in an urban hellhole as a metaphor for class struggles” genre. While the French flicks are over the top and tongue in cheek, though, Shank appears to be much more serious. The fights are less hyper and more brutal, and there’s more down time between action scenes to illustrate how harsh life is for these kids on the streets.
Shank was directed by Mo Ali, who’s made a name for himself overseas with a bunch of cutting-edge music videos, and it shows. The movie is visually rich, and Ali knows how to make the most of the bleak, gritty landscape. There are even a few music interludes, which gives Ali chances to show off his visual style even more.
The widescreen picture on the disc is good, and the audio is excellent, accents notwithstanding, making the most of the pounding rap songs on the soundtrack. Extras include three behind-the-scenes featurettes, cast and crew interviews, footage from the premiere, a photo gallery, and a short film and music video. I’m afraid these were difficult to understand as well. Also note that for this review, DVD Verdict received an advance screener disc, the quality of which may or may not differ from the one in stores. If there are no subtitles, I simply can’t recommend a purchase.