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Shiner Review

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It’s a big night for small-time boxing promoter Billy ‘Shiner’ Simpson: his son is fighting a US champ and a win would put him up for a title bout. But, with his entire fortune in the balance, Simpson could do without family betrayals and the police breat

★★★★★

Yet again the British film industry refuses to put a bullet in the back of the head of the gangster movie revival. For every one that rises to the top of the pile (Sexy Beast; Lock, Stock...), there’s an offender which never will (Circus; Love, Honour & Obey). Maybe it’s time for some of the old guard to slap down the upstarts. And, if you want Cockney menace with veteran authority, look no further than Michael Caine.

Without Caine, Shiner would be nothing more than a schedule-filling slice of ’70s TV. It gives him the opportunity to flex those acting muscles that get flabby when your career consists of a string of high-profile cameo roles. He threatens, he broods, he bullies, he cries.

This is his King Lear — a character who thinks he’s at the height of his power, but who, in the course of a day, will see his family turn against him and his servants’ loyalty called into question, as he’s left howling in the wilderness.

It’s a pity, then, that a performer of this stature isn’t supported by the script, the story or the direction of his venture. John Irvin fails to inject any distinctive note of energy into his work. The boxing sequences are more The Bill than Raging Bull — punch-for-punch blunders that are devoid of excitement. There’s a clue in the fact that this is Caine’s fourth collaboration with Geoffrey Reeve after Shadow Run, Half Moon Street and The Whistle Blower — hardly the high points of the actor’s filmography.

Elsewhere, Landau fails to make much impact as an American promoter, while Kenneth Cranham is spectacularly hammy in his bad guy turn. Only Harper, playing strong, silent but surprisingly complex henchman Stoney, has the presence to match Caine. But it’s the main man’s movie, as bruised and brilliant as the title suggests.

Caine adds a bit of class to a stodgy crime flick, which might have worked, in its day, on a bill with one of The Sweeney movies. Great performance, forgettable feature.