Structured around a sweet romance between coke-snorting, self-hating hoodie-on-the-run Cal (Wayne Virgo) and flighty French student Olivier (Marc Laurent), the film draws on timely issues of class struggle and criminal violence to build a convincing picture of gay life at street level.
It’s all rather worthy and simplistic, relying on hackneyed depictions of cellphone-wielding happy-slappers and graffitied backstreets. The cast is patchy at best, notably Cal’s stereotypical thug-life cronies, but Virgo grounds the proceedings with a compelling central turn.
Martin and Shulevitz’s script is nicely constructed, with a few well-judged – if overcooked – last act revelations. Overall, ‘Shank’ has a lot more to say than the average no-budget gangland exposé, resulting in a film which, for all its clichés, feels surprisingly real.