Movie: A Shock to the System
Year: 1990

This is an older, but refreshing film noir of one man's path up the corporate ladder and a new lease on his love life. However, his methods are a bit unorthodox, as he uses murder as his tool for success. Michael Caine is lead character and narrator Graham Marshall, who is frustrated in both his professional and home lives and is to the point where he could just kill someone. So he does, and gets away with it. His first killing, a subway accident, was unintentional, but sends a shock to his system and unfetters emotions and courage within him, feelings he'd never known before. He figures himself to be untouchable and then plots to eliminate the other sources of misery in his life, his yuppie boss Robert Benham (Peter Riegert), who stole a hard earned and much anticipated promotion from Graham, and who rubs it in his face every chance he gets. Then there is his quintessential nagging wife, Leslie (Swoosie Kurtz) whose main preoccupation is with her Stairmaster and her husbands "failures" despite the fact that they live in one hell of a house in Connecticut, with a mortgage that exceeds my monthly salary. However, the kink in the chain is the Columbo-like detective (Will Patton) who doesn't believe that these tragic, albeit convenient deaths were accidents.

So, why will you find yourself silently rooting for Graham Marshall to prevail and not the detective? Because in his narration Caine takes you through his methodical plan for getting what he wants and righting past wrongs. You want to see what he does next and if he can continue to get away with murder. The characters killed are not sympathetic ones, and were nothing more than burdens and obstacles to his happiness and commercial success. Now there are a couple characters that get caught in the middle here and are used as a means to an end and you may or may not feel sorry for them; Graham's former boss and friend (John McMartin), who everyone expected him to succeed, and na´ve office assistant Stella Anderson (Elizabeth McGovern) who eventually offers Graham some "comfort" after the death of his wife and genuinely cares for him, but is unaware of the psychotic nature of the man with whom she is smitten.

The final scenes of the movie tell you if he gets caught, or if he gets what is coming to him. Either way, you'll want to know, and you'll cheer. This is by no means a cinematic masterpiece, but it will accomplish the goal to entertain perhaps give you a shock to your system. The main character is could only been played by Caine, or say perhaps Walken, and I think that is what makes the movie so engrossing. Anyway, watch and enjoy.

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: B

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:

A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV


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