Sunday, 21 April 2013

A Shock to the System (1990) – ★★★½

tumblr_mby6xyxrft1r64le7o1_500Director: Jan Egleson
Writers: Andrew Klavan (screenplay), Simon Brett (novel)
Stars: Michael Caine, Elizabeth McGovern, Peter Riegert, Swoosie Kurtz, Will Patton

The greatness of this film lies not with its story, but with the brilliant performance of Michael Caine. In my opinion, this is one of his best, and most underrated performances. A Shock to the System is not a great movie as a whole, but for the most part it is very entertaining. It is a short, well-casted, semi-thrilling movie with a brilliant ending, which is why I’ve given it a generous 3½ stars.

Graham Marshall (Michael Caine), is a tired man that finds people around him are becoming more insufferable by the day. He anxiously awaited his promotion in an advertising company, when he learns that the undeserving Roger Benham (Peter Reigert) got promoted instead of him. Graham finally snaps. Frustrated that his hated life will never change, he cunningly concocts plans to take bloody revenge on everyone who brought him down, even his own nagging wife.

This isn’t the most original of stories, but Michael Caine breathes life into the character of Graham, who sees himself as a sorcerer, a magician of life. It’s almost as if he was going through a mid-life crisis that required him to kill people to get what he wanted. There were scenes that gave me chills. In one scene, Graham finds out that he is slowly getting fired. Thus came the Oscar worthy monologue from Caine which was the highlight of the film. ”Well, let me tell you something, Bobster. You don’t know the first fucking thing about power. I have more power in this hand than *all* you fucking know!”

I’m not sure whether it is because of a small budget or inferior equipment, but the whole film came across as a cheaply-made independent film. That’s not to say that it was bad, but at times the scenes were too dark to see their faces. What made the film great, however, was the way it makes one question whether or not to root for the murderous Graham. It must be Caine’s infectious personality, because it’s so darn hard to hate this man. In the end, I did end up hating this character, which I attribute to the marvellous performance of Caine, for he broke my bias towards him as an actor and made me see him as the character.

Overall, A Shock to the System is a short, cheap, but entertaining film about a man who believes that he has the power, and the right, to kill people. It is exquisitely acted by Michael Caine in one of his finest roles. It forces the audience to question right and wrong, and leaves us with an ending that lets our imaginations fill the gaps. I thoroughly enjoyed this film.


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