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A Shock to the System1990

  • 3.6
A middle-aged advertising executive loses his long-awaited promotion to a younger man. In frustration, he accidentally pushes a panhandler in front of a subway train... and gets away with the death. Realizing that committing murder might be a little easier than he previously had thought, he begins plotting the death of several of his corporate enemies.

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1 member likes this review

Held my attention. Nothing profound

Member Reviews (21)

top reviewer

Michael Caine plays a charismatic antihero who murders their way to promotions at an office. Caine finds himself in a mid-life crisis at the beginning of the movie, with a pestering wife and being passed over for promotion by a young, virile executive. He dismantles the prison of his family and finds liberation in the bachelor's life like in American Beauty. But he is ultimately a bad guy, a reactionary. His old guard is being dismantled by multicultural reformers and he lashes out violently, destroying by force that which threatens his privileges. Caine's character occupies the same position as Michael Douglas' in Falling Down, directed by Joel Schumacher.

The dialogue is terse but poetic. It is lyrical while being laconic. Mainly, the viewer is rooting for Michael Caine to get away with doing really bad stuff because he's Michael Caine and he should be able to do what he wants. The murderous plotting and romantic complications turn up the suspense to nail-biting at points, even if we can consider this a slightly whimsical dark humor. With Elizabeth McGovern as the doe-eyed babe, this film is a clone of a decent Hitchcock, though somewhat twisted dar

1 member likes this review
top reviewer

This seemed like it was going to be a great movie, but this is an "edited for TV" version of the film with some very bad dubbing to "hide" expletives. Not sure how much else might be missing so am not going to assign a rating. I didn't know that Fandor would post versions like this on the site.

1 member likes this review

Held my attention. Nothing profound

1 member likes this review

The story is a bit dumb, the script a little over-done, and the tone sometimes awkwardly dated, but there are some visually interesting moments, and as superb performance from Michael Caine, so I'd say give it a watch.

1 member likes this review

Okay if nothing else to do or watch. Caine is always good, but not much more here because of a weak script.

1 member likes this review
top reviewer

While the plot is rather tedious and predictable, the film is buoyed by the performances of Michael Caine and Elizabeth McGovern who are central in retaining the viewer's interest.

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top reviewer


top reviewer

Delicious(Elizabeth McGovern)and ironic! Strange that "cuss words" are overdubbed but if you are even mediocre at reading lips......hahaha!

One freaking-great, heck-of-a, dang-good movie. Obviously edited for television. If you have ever worked in a corporate environment, you will be able to relate to the office politics, office romances and back-stabbing.

After decades of loyal service to the business, Michael Caine is passed over for the big promotion because the board doesn't consider him to be cut-throat enough. A younger, more ambitious man is given the position, and Caine is forced to be his subordinate. Well, that's the last straw.

After Caine is not suspected for an accidental death that he caused, he takes the opportunity to murder and manipulate his way up to the coveted corner office. Anyone who gets in the way of his ambition is dispatched quickly and discreetly. This includes his nagging, materialistic wife. Elizabeth McGovern's attraction for Caine is taken advantage of and turned into a convenient alibi.

Toward the end, Caine starts to believe that he has special powers and that fate has favored him. Perhaps he is right or perhaps he has just sold out. Caine ends up getting everything he wants (including the corner office), but at the cost of his own soul.

Mark 8:36

Caine is always great. But see Altman's 'The Player' instead.

Love this film. Cainne is superb, manifesting the character's malevolent impulses in an uninhibited outpouring of raw, direct anger and self-righteousness. Catihartic to the max.

This is not one of his best. It is well acted though. I think the dialogue is terse but poetic.

It is lyrical while being laconic. Translation: The dialog is crisp and melodic. To say it's laconic is repetitive. I guess the idea is for Crab to show off his big vocabulary.

just so well done.

Great premise but first person narration takes you out of the film quite a bit.

A very innovative & well thought out screenplay. A rather unique "crime" story inasmuch as the "bad guy" (Caine) triumphs in the end. The film is actually a bitter commentary on the Corporate World,& takes the line about "stepping over bodies to get to the top" quite literally. I thought that the acting by the whole cast was rather good, as was the cinematography. A very entertaining & engaging film for me, at least. ...

I agree with the "edited for TV" comments below. We also thought that all the cast acted as if they were in separate films. The direction is not subtle. Michael Caine understands his character arc better than the director does, and it shows. Disjointed and sometimes incoherent.


Two stars for the cameraman and the spider (on his sleeve). No stars for Caine. Implausible story. Not even a comedy, for the right reasons.

You can't lose with Michael Caine. Not even when he portrays a killer. This film is good clean murderous fun.

Fantastic. Michael Caine is simply perfect in this movie. The curses are dubbed over, but there aren't enough for it to get very annoying. Loved this movie.

Michael Caine is so wonderful.