By Clint Morris
As icy Catherine Trammel likes to remind her partners mid-thrust, sex is dangerous. And that’s essentially the same message iconic-sounding filmmaker Steve McQueen is translating via his gloomy ode to celibacy, ”Shame” (albeit, without the ice-pick prop).
A more confronting film you’re not likely to see, Shame, named so because of its lead character’s unhealthy and ultimately destructive appetite for sex, offers relative newcomer Michael Fassbender (”Inglourious Basterds”, ”X-Men Origins : Wolverine”) the chance to not only demonstrate his honed acting abilities – and he is sensational here – but take a full-frontal leak on camera.
But urine isn’t the only rarity getting some play in McQueen’s film, there’s also high-rise window humping, wall slams, a bottomless male lead for large chunks of the film, and an instructional guide for those unsure how to devour a happy meal. And fast food has nothing to do with it.
But with ”Shame”, McQueen doesn’t seem to be merely out to make David Cronenberg’s sex-in-car epic ”Crash” or Larry Clark’s controversial teen-sex flick ”Ken Park” look like an edited-for-prime-time episode of ”The Sopranos” – though he does succeed at that – he’s here to paint a realistic portrait of how caustic sex can be, and how ultimately life-threatening an addiction to it is.
McQueen and co-writer Abi Morgan serve up an in-your-face and unreserved yarn of a New Yorker (Fassbender) who is in constant pursuit of sex. Whether it be picking up girls from bars, hiring prostitutes or wandering desperately into gay sex clubs, it all starts to chip away at the over-emotional loose cannon. And when the equally-loose sister (an equally brave Carey Mulligan) turns up, ultimately ending up in bed with her brother’s boss (James Badge Dale), it sends sir sex-a-lot into a spin.
Delicately shot and infinitely engaging, ”Shame” is an effective reminder – albeit one with the stomach-churning ability to turn anyone off raw, unemotional sex – that sometimes you’re better off keeping it in your pants.