I'm not someone who's met many of the rich and famous. One celebrity duo I have met was Dappy and Fazer from N-Dubz " Who's N-Dubz? " yeah that's the exact same question I asked wondering why all my female teenage colleagues started resembling wild cats in heat because a couple of nobodies came in to have something to eat. N-Dubz - who were that day minus that bimbo who went on to judge X-FACTOR - were a mainstream rap act who would sing about life on the mean streets of Camden Town. Obviously having such tough lives where stabbings and shootings and gang warfare is everyday existence in the ghetto they felt the need to employ a big scary black geezer as a minder because they're entering a strange untamed land called Scotland where their reputation for being violent gangsta rappers might proceed them. Before they left one of my colleagues Nicola asked to borrow my lighter which she then proceeded to give to Dappy because being a hard gangsta rapper means only wimps buy lighters innit. As they left they passed by me and stopped to give me a dirty look so I gave them a wave. Why I did they stop to stare at me? I don't know but it's easy to give strangers a dirty look when you've got a big scary minder with you. Two things I learned that day
1 ) If you're mildly " famous " and I use that word in its loosest, vaguest sense then teenage girls working in dead end low paid jobs think it's very exciting
2 ) There's something amusingly pathetic about middle class posers thinking they're hard nuts from a lawless Hell on Earth ghetto
Bearing this in mind I sat down to watch SHANK released in 2010 and set in 2015 where Britain has suffered economic and social collapse and where a 14 year old boy is chased by a youth on a motorbike. The scene despite blink and you'll miss it editing seemed to go on forever. Two things I was able to discern from this long opening scene was
1 ) Britain will be guaranteed a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics
2 ) London council estates have motor bike access
As the story continues a picture is painted that life is cheap and people have to run with the pack if they want to survive the streets - it's the law of the jungle and survival of the fittest as Junior the 14 year old boy from the opening sequence tells as about life and death in a factionalised London that is being devastated by gang warfare
I didn't expect it to be like the all too convincing scenario Nigel Kneale used in his 1979 QUATERMASS serial but did get reminded of the 1994 film SHOPPING starring a young Jude Law. That was a painfully underdeveloped film but within a short space of time you realise SHANK is going to be much worse due to screenwriter Paul Van Carter using made up idiosyncratic street lingo innit and director Mo Ali using sharp editing, ramping and every other directorial technique he feels like along with a constant drum and bass soundtrack. If either of them are making any social comment it becomes confused and probably ironic. By the time we're introduced to a Somalian street gang where the stereotypical characters constantly chew Khat you're worried that SNATCH might be turning in to a recruitment film for if not the BNP then certainly UKIP
One wonders if Mo Ali might have been aware of this because a third of the way through the whole tone of the film changes. The cast who up to this point have been the most laughably unconvincing street gang I've ever seen with Sweet Boy played by someone who'd look at home as leader of the Nu-Labour Party, start becoming subliminally conscious that they're a bunch of middle class thespians straight out of stage school and not street tough nihilists from a slum and start playing up to this. Actually they're a likable bunch of lads and when we get introduced to an equally unconvincing female street gang of slappers called The Slaughter Girls played by actresses that any dad would be proud to have as a daughter in law I found myself starting to enjoy the film for some reason. I guessing because the cast who are having so much fun are able to translate it the audience. Sure it's a dreadful film but at this point it's not supposed to be serious and the cast act accordingly. This leads me to ask why the ending features a violent act of revenge which again feels entirely different from what proceeded it?
This is a genuinely bizarre film. Certainly not a good film at all and I totally understand why people might be coming out with the " worst film I've ever seen in my life " cliché. It is a film that starts with serious pretensions of being a grim social commentary on broken Britain for the first third then gives up the ghost and one might actually think it satirizes pathetic middle class public school boys who are in to wigger gang culture ( Hi N-Dubz ) and is quite enjoyable at this point if you don't take it seriously but the final resolution is violent and downbeat which left me confused as to the point it was making. In its defence the characters are infinitely more likable than the ones in the not too dissimilar ATTACK THE BLOCK that came out a year later.
Review by Theo Robertson from the Internet Movie Database.