"Shiner" is about straight, even homophobic, guys whose sparring edges the line between horseplay and masochism. It takes a while to realize the laughs in writer/helmer Christian Colson's feature are intentional -- no-budget production values, awkward scene rhythms and minimalist character development make pic look like a fetish video.
The homoerotic subtext many found in “Fight Club” is spelled out in “Shiner,” about some ostensibly straight, even homophobic, guys whose sparring edges across the line between macho horseplay and sexual masochism. It takes a while to realize the laughs in writer/helmer Christian Colson’s first feature are intentional — no-budget production values, deliberately awkward scene rhythms and minimalist character development make pic look at first very much like a solemnly silly fetish video. By the end, a sort of deliberate absurdity is clear, though this vid-shot exercise in behavioral extremity may be too rough-hewn and unratable for arthouse play.
Best buds Tony (Scott Stepp) and Danny (Derris Nile) are first seen making the acquaintance of gay dude Charley (Ryan Soteres) in a bar. Trio repair to an alley where anticipated consensual sex turns into gay-bashing. Neither Tony nor the rather crazy thrill-junkie Danny consider themselves “queer.” But latter does seem to be developing a taste for pain — he gets Tony to beat him to a pulp on successive nights that invariably end with duo passed out in the same bed.
Meanwhile their friend Tim (David Zelina), an amateur boxer, taunts his adoring stalker Bob (Nicholas T. King), an attendant at Tim’s gym. Numerous scenes are intercut with violent sex between foul-mouthed Linda (Carolyn Crotty) and her boyfriend Reg (Seth Harrington), one couple here that seems fully in touch with their taste for kink.
Eventually Charley resurfaces in an attempt to get some revenge on his attackers, while Tim sneaks into Bob’s house in the dead of night to confront his nemesis by debasing himself.
Offering a panoply of repressed homosexual urges in extremis, pic deliberately keeps characters in a porn-style vacuum of context. Their underpopulated environs are rooms, basements and alleys void of detail; characters sport no backstories or professions; dialogue is seldom more than uncouth and unchallenging; ending is ambiguous and abrupt.
Tech aspects are on the primitive side, perfs OK, with Nile convincing as a self-described “freak” whose thirst for punishment grows ever more extreme. Sole familiar face is former recording artist and starlet Conny Van Dyke, cast as Bob’s slovenly mother after an apparent 30-year layoff since mid-’70s leading lady roles opposite Joe Don Baker and Burt Reynolds. Extent of sexual simulation and full-frontal male nudity here make “Shiner” a film unlikely to ever invite MPAA scrutiny.