Shank is a side-scrolling beat 'em up with a comic book art style. In the game the player controls Shank, an ex-mob hitman. The game features three main types of weaponry: a pair of knives, heavy melee weapons (the starting one is a chainsaw) and firearms (the starting one is a pair of pistols). Each weapon is assigned to a controller button, and the attacks can be combined to perform various combos. The player can collect temporary-use weaponry from fallen enemies, such as machine guns, rifles and hand grenades.