With the upcoming release of Now You See Me 2, what could be a better that finding a lesser known Michael Caine film on Fandor? A simple search for Michael Caine on Fandor yielded 3 results: 1975 romantic comedy The Romantic Englishwoman, 1979 cult film Ashanti, and 1990 dark comedy A Shock to the System. You know him as Alfred Pennyworth, Nigel Powers (Austin’s Dad, of course), Jack Carter, Charlie Croker (later portrayed by Mark Wahlberg), Ebenezer Scrooge, that crazy old man Jasper from Children of Men, and countless other roles; but, there’s a good chance you don’t know him as Graham Marshall, a business man who gets cheated out of a promotion that sets off a chain of events leading to a total change in character and values.
As the film begins, we’re introduced to Graham, a mid level manager in the business world who is in line for a promotion he’s worked his whole life for. When he is passed over in favor of Bob Benham, played by Peter Riegert (The Mask, Animal House, The Sopranos), he is disappointed but ultimately seems like he’ll be able to move on from it… except that his wife continually demoralizes and degrades him for not getting the promotion. But then things change after a freak accident resulting in the death of a homeless vagrant.
This incident changes Graham; it empowers him to “think outside the box” in his strategizing to overcome his problems and the obstacles in the way to him attaining his goals. He sees the power he can wield and the ways he can attain that power, then he does what he has to do to reach out and grab it. Suffice it to say that he is successful in eliminating his roadblocks and achieving success in his career and beyond. He does, however, become a much darker and more corrupt man; though, this man has been just below the surface since the beginning, it seems.
The performance of Caine is stellar, to say the least. He remains the proper Englishman with the definitive Cockney accent that we all know and love, but his intensity is cranked up to 11. His angry outbursts are forceful and believable, showing a man who tries hard to keep his cool but can’t always keep it bottled up inside. And these outbursts occur in numerous fashions, from frustrated yells to verbal assaults to physical attacks. As Graham accepts his anger and allows it to shape and mold his actions, his explosions are lessened but are replaced by calculated strokes of violent action. He harnesses his rage and becomes a truly dangerous man. He is frightening at times, but his darkly comic presence will certain engender many an uncomfortable chuckle.
He is joined not only by Peter Reigert as that weasel who got the job that should have been his (whom Graham refers to ask quite disaffectionately as “Bobby Boy”), but also Swoosie Kurtz (Liar, Liar, Pushing Daisies, and Jimmy’s Mom and Danny Trejo’s lover “Wildfire” in Bubble Boy) as Graham’s nagging wife Leslie, Will Patton (Remember the Titans, Gone in 60 Seconds) as Lieutenant Laker, Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) as Graham’s love interest Stella, and Samuel L. Jackson in a small role as Huxley. The entire cast is strong, in fact; the film features an array of “Hey, I know that guy/gal!” type character actors in addition to the main players.
Wikipedia labels the film a “dark comedy crime thriller” and I think that’s about as good a genre definition as you can get on this film. It’s dark, intriguing, and truly an experience. It serves as a reminder of the vast range and talent of Sir Michael Caine (or, more accurately, Sir Maurice Micklewhite, Commander of the Order of the British Empire… “Not a lot of people know that”). As the very definition of British cool since the 60’s, Caine remains an active force in Hollywood and beyond.
In a 2002 interview with Venice Magazine, Caine said of the film:
That was a lovely little film, but it was too small for its own good, really. It got lost. It was the sort of film, were it made today, that would be great as a film for HBO, or something. But at the time, it just got lost in the system.
Thanks to Fandor, the film has be found and is no longer buried. So head on over and check out this great film and the other Michael Caine films they’ve got there for your viewing pleasure, because when it comes to choosing a film with great acting you can’t go wrong with a a Michael Caine film. Don’t believe me? Then believe Madness.