Eighteen-year-old gang member Cal (Wayne Virgo) acts violently against his homosexual feelings, including those for his best friend, Jonno (Tom Bott). Nessa (Alice Payne) not only leads their gang but also holds secrets about both young men and why she carries so much ange.

In an intentional departure from coming-out films, the young director Simon Pearce teams with screenwriters Darren Flaxstone and Christian Martin for a British film that depicts a clash between gang life and gay life. The resulting story not only mixes graphic sex and violence but goes much deeper, looking at why people live in fear of sexual orientation and their own vulnerabilities.

Though Cal seems perfectly willing to bash other gays, he finds himself defending and then befriending Olivier (Marc Laurent). Meeting secretly while Cal hides from his fellow gang members, Cal and Olivier quickly fall into a relationship and in love.

Of course, violence waits around every corner for Cal, and he only manages to lead Olivier into that violence. I honestly can’t say for sure that this movie will appeal to all fans of gay film. Many such viewers prefer some of the more positive representations of gay characters that many excellent gay films offer. However, Shank’s honest look at closeted, conflicted gays in dangerous settings makes it equally compelling.

The homosexuality of those characters adds to their complexity, taking what might sound like a B-movie premise and elevating Shank into an exciting, disturbing, and engaging drama. The talented cast and the unconventional script make Shank a memorable experience.

Shank Distributed by TLA Releasing.

Duane Simolke
wrote Holding Me Together and The Acorn Stories.