Today: June 11, 2024

A Shock to the System

With over 50 titles and counting, 101 Films’ Red Label collection continues to be a fantastic series in the cult distributors’ catalogue. Dedicated to shining a spotlight on neglected classics and hidden gems, the series is loaded with films ripe for rediscovery and that has seldom been more true than in the case of their latest release – Jan Egleson’s 1990 black comedy thriller A Shock to the System starring Michael Caine.

Playing like a corporate Kind Hearts & Coronets, the starkly hilarious tale follows advertising executive Graham (Caine). After being unexpectedly passed over for promotion in favour of his sleazy young rival, Graham begins a cold and calculated rampage of revenge. As the body count grows, Graham’s actions attract the attention of an ambitious police lieutenant (Will Patton).

A Shock to the System is an absolute blast. Darkly funny and surprisingly tense in equal measure, the film’s brief 89 minute runtime is wonderfully paced. I was taken aback by just how far on the edge of my seat I was throughout – thanks largely to Caine’s simmering performance. Graham is frighteningly always on the edge of absolute rage, and as he succumbs more to the fantasy of his crimes – he refers to them as ‘black magic’ – he becomes even more of a ticking time bomb. It’s a wonderful performance; despite his utterly repugnant and murderous ambition, Caine injects just enough sympathy into the role so that it’s not quite as black and white as that. Here is a man who has been pushed and disrespected, and we’ve all been in his position. Caine is fantastic here – a quiet chuckle to himself when Graham is informed of the untimely death of one of his victims is as twisted as it gets.

101 Films’ Blu-ray disc is great. The film itself is never going to look sparkling, but the high def transfer is enough to breathe some new life into the forgotten flick. Archival bonus features include a director interview and commentary, which offer some interesting insight into the film’s production and process of adapting Simon Brett’s 1984 novel of the same name.

A Shock to the System is long overdue for cult classic status and should confidently be mentioned alongside Ealing Studios classic Kind Hearts & Coronets. This darkly twisted comedy of ambition and murder is great old-fashioned entertainment and 101 Films’ new Blu-ray release should be considered essential. 

A Shock to the System is available now on Blu-ray from 101 Films

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