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Shiner (2004)

Unrated | | Drama | 5 June 2004 (USA)
Raising the subtext of "Fight Club'' into text, "Shiner'' depicts a pair of amateur boxers gratified by punching each others' lights out. Theirs is among a trio of twisted love stories in ... See full summary »


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Cast overview:
Tony (as Scott Stepp)
Derris Nile ...
Nicholas T. King ...
Conny Van Dyke ...
Bob's Mom
Ryan Soteres ...
Almost Dead Guy


Raising the subtext of "Fight Club'' into text, "Shiner'' depicts a pair of amateur boxers gratified by punching each others' lights out. Theirs is among a trio of twisted love stories in the narrative feature by 29-year-old Los Angeles director Christian Calson. There's also a woman literally fighting her male lover's affections and another boxer who stalks his own shy male stalker. "Shiner'' transcends sadomasochism in that no one seems aware of what he or she is doing. "I'm trying to look at desire head on,'' the soft-spoken Calson said by telephone. "('Shiner') is about the politics of wanting and being wanted and how people respond differently.'' Rife with ugly behavior, "Shiner'' rejects the trend of queer filmmakers seeking straight understanding. "In L.A., we have this kind of sadness we carry around, that the only way we can make gay stories is by making more like 'Will and Grace,' '' Calson said. Like the activist-filmmakers tackling the marriage issue, Calson went into "... Written by Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle

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5 June 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Desire Is Relentless  »

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Many of the blurry, unfocused moments in the film, as well as "problems" with angles and sounds, were done intentionally. See more »


Reg: Don't be mean. You know how it turns me off.
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User Reviews

Strange, but significant to film and queer cinema nonetheless.
20 March 2005 | by (Cleveland, Ohio) – See all my reviews

A friend of mine had rented "Shiner" only because the clerks at his local video store were talking about "how much of a bigot the director is," implying that homophobia was at the root of the film (apparently these folks never watched the special features on the DVD, which totally negates that opinion). My friend took the video home and reported to me his fascination with the film; at the same time, he felt aroused, repulsed, intrigued and frightened during and after the flick. He told me about the premise of the film, and felt somewhat ashamed for finding some of its darker content erotic.

A few weeks later, I picked up the film and had a similar experience. I was confused; in the queer movement were taught so much about power dynamics and organize ourselves to fight violence, but here was a dramatically different take on the subject. What ended my confusion was the interview with writer/director Christian Calson on the DVD. The line of his that grabbed me the most: "I didn't want to make another gay romantic comedy." Things suddenly made sense to me. So many queer, I mean, gay films (ahem) are merely homo-remakes of mainstream romantic comedies. As queers, our message got lost as we sought inclusion in a particular medium. So, in what might be the most post-modern move of a writer/director in film history, Christian Calson sought to queer gay cinema. (Yes, I'm using queer as a verb.) He later supports this argument by talking about a form of "post-gay liberation" in which gay leaders shouted "We're doctors! We're lawyers! We're teachers!" to the point our difference and diversity became invisible. "We're just like you" led to us becoming nothing, in a sense.

While the movie is disturbing at times, it's thoroughly engaging. The audience member feels like a voyeur, peeping into the lives of these three "couples." And through that voyeurism, we come to a closer understanding of the elements of violence and how it relates to queerness. From self-loathing to internalized homophobia, from bitter rage to being just plain f'ed up, "Shiner" takes us through a mini-gamut of how violence affects us all, in ways no PSA or "the More You Know" segment could ever hope to address.

I highly suggest that you pick up the DVD of the film and watch the special features, including the Calson interview and the commentary, which is a noteworthy production in its own right.

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