Before we go anywhere let me get one fact out in the open right away. The film “Crust” features, and is centered upon, a seven-foot long boxing shrimp. Now if you are still on board at this point, send me your contact information so we can meet up for drinks.
Before dismissing this away as outlandishly ridiculous, let me assure you that the movie is merely ridiculous. But take comfort that what we are talking about is not some hyperbolic, Troma-style lark made for the sake of weirdness. This is in fact a British farce that has enough humanity in it that, after a while, plausibility begins to creep in, and before you realize it you end up playing along. Of course, that manages to get washed away every time the gargantuan sea-creature appears on screen, but still, you may very well find yourself getting involved against your better judgment.
The story opens on Bill, an asthmatic and downcast pub owner and former boxer who rues never making a name for himself. He is dour to the point that he feels driven to inform his customers that studies have shown bar snacks contain traces of human excretement, even as they knosh on his own offerings. Bill’s outlook is so despondent that he tutors his friend Steve, a young boxer himself, that life is a series of disappointments best handled with a cynical mind, even as Steve hopes to build his career, and a relationship, with his 17-year old girlfriend Hillary. Bill counsels him to cast off hopes while looking out only for his self interests. Bill’s theories could easily get dismissed by the fact that he is wearing a gold lame’ shirt in a nightclub as he delivers these speeches, but he manages to keep these instances to a minimum.
One evening, the local scam-artist named Hamm approaches Bill with a most unusual proposition. He plays a video of men sparring with a kangaroo, mentioning the money to be made in such an enterprise. Bill retorts that people “can’t go around kicking the national emblem of Australia,” to which Hamm says that instead he can make money boxing with a seven foot long mantis shrimp. It is a compelling argument, given that any nation wrapping its sovereignty around a bottom-feeding dinner entree’ really shouldn’t be feared. Bill initially runs the con-man off, but for the next few nights he mulls over the opportunity with Steve and comes to the conclusion that, with the lot he has been dealt in his life, he could do worse for a chance at success.
He decides that he will sock his meager savings into the purchase of the creature and Steve will join on as they develop an act whereby money will pour in from Steve boxing the beast. (Mantis shrimp, I should point out, are outfitted with a pair of club-like appendages that are employed in subduing their prey. This particular specimen has a reach of five feet.) Just as their plans reach a dead-end, Bill enlists Hamm to help them stage a half-assed demonstration that manages to snare representation.
The start was a humorous romp, where the characters interact with acerbic tongues and speak in bold cockney, but after the introduction of the shrimp, things lag in the second reel before recovering for a passable finale’. It is tough to criticize an over-the-top scene near the end when we are dealing with a film centering on sushi the size of a Suburu, but I was left craving for the brash manners and scathing dialogue at the opening. In the end, this is a rather enjoyable, and blatantly original comedic effort, albeit one that may not be for everyone.
Without a doubt, this is the “Citizen Kane” of boxing shrimp movies. If you see only one film this year about a pugilistic crustacean, make it this one!