Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
Billy “Shiner” Simpson (Michael Caine) is building up to his big boxing promoting night, the headline of which is his own son, Eddie “Golden Boy” Simpson (Matthew Marsden). But family troubles begin to weigh heavy, a police investigation closes in on him and a rival American promoter is breathing down his neck. It’s going to get messy.
Surprisingly for a Michael Caine British gangster movie, Shiner is a little under known. A shame because it’s really rather good. Caine himself felt that by 2000 the cinema loving public had had enough of British films of this type, hence why it did poorly at the box office and quickly disappeared into the retail chain of things.
It’s basically a reworking of King Lear, in London and with Caine on super form. Billy Simpson is a grade “A” noir protagonist, the world he inhabits is ultimately too much for him, there’s treachery and dishonesty – violence and disappointments, all around him, but still he ploughs on as if he will eventually become the king of the castle. Yet this is the noirville area of London, of grubby bars and grey landscapes, the hall playing host to Billy’s big night is a place of stale cheese sandwiches and blocked toilets.
On either side of Billy are his two henchman played by Frank Harper and Andy Serkis, two sides of the same coin they are, though they menace in different ways. Billy’s two daughters played by Claire Rushbrook and Frances Barber, also two sides of the same coin, but conversely they have different love for their father. Martin Landau is the smooth American promoter with a dame on his arm and a grudge for Billy, and Gary Lewis and Kenneth Cranham fill out important roles as characters caught in Billy’s soon to be maelstrom.
Caine did say that he considers Shiner to be part of a trilogy that comprises Get Carter and Mona Lisa. Shiner isn’t close to being as good as those two movies, especially the sublime Get Carter, but it holds its head up high in such company and fans of those movies should seek it out. 8/10