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A Shock to the System (1990)

A Shock to the System (1990) is a U.S. comedy crime thriller film directed by Jan
Egleson, starring Michael Caine, Swoosie Kurtz, Elizabeth McGovern, and Peter
Riegert. It is based on the 1984 novel A Shock to the System by British author
Simon Brett.

Michael Caine ... Graham Marshall

Elizabeth McGovern ... Stella Anderson
Peter Riegert ... Robert Benham
Swoosie Kurtz ... Leslie Marshall
Will Patton ... Lt. Laker
Jenny Wright ... Melanie O'Conner
John McMartin ... George Brewster
Barbara Baxley ... Lillian
Haviland Morris ... Tara Liston
Philip Moon ... Henry Park

A brilliantly modulated, witty and nasty black comedy with Michael Caine as Graham
Marshall, an outwardly friendly but cold-hearted New York ad man who simply
eliminates the people in his life who inconvenience him.

The third-person narration (spoken by Caine) has the tone of a children's fairy
tale (He felt that he was losing his magic), and the movie does play like a Grimm
story updated. Sensing that he's got a plum role, Caine plays it to malicious
perfection. We fear for the smug little yuppie (Peter Riegert) who's snagged the
promotion Graham wanted even as we're rooting for Graham to do him in.

It's Caine's show, but other performers Swoosie Kurtz as Graham's perpetually
disappointed wife, Elizabeth McGovern as his smart, sensual lover, and John
McMartin (looking as though he'd stepped out of a Howard Chaykin drawing) as a
weary, bitter corporate veteran whose time has passed are also given room to

With no graphic violence or sex, no cheap commercial hooks, and absolutely no

respect for niceness, this is a dazzling valentine to moviegoers who've been beaten
down again and again by the cloying, grab-you-by-the-lapels conventions of
Hollywood a true adult film.

This is a devilishly on-target black comedy about corporate politics, generational

conflict, money fever, and what happens in the office when cutthroat competition
becomes the norm. Michael Caine gives a spiffy performance as a middle-aged New
York executive who is understandably upset when the big promotion he's been waiting
for is given to a young, smug, wheeler-dealer (Robert Riegert). Caine decides to
fight back, imagining himself as a modern-day sorcerer who eliminates all those who
do not acknowledge his power. Andrew Klavan's sharp-edged screen adaptation of
Simon Brett's novel makes A Shock to the System both involving and compelling.
Director Jan Egleson also draws out top-drawer performances from the supporting
cast, including Swoosie Kurtz as Caine's nagging wife, Elizabeth McGovern as his
lover, and John McMartin as an executive cast aside in corporate realignment.

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