Alec Guinness played almost all the parts in the homicidal black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. Michael Caine, with a smaller repertoire, once pointed out that he could play both Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood, and in the not dissimilar A Shock to the System, proves it. Ageing advertising executive Graham Marshall (Caine) starts out as schlemiel, henpecked at home and passed over for promotion at work. The worm's turning point occurs on the subway, when Marshall shoves a panhandler under a train and gets away with it, after which murder becomes a shot in his locker. He hooks up his wife (Kurtz) to the National Grid, and consoles his bereavement with Stella at work (McGovern). Interestingly, murder puts lead in his pencil, confirming Mailer's thesis in The American Dream. The corporate world's dedication to ruthless efficiency meets its apotheosis in Marshall, and his obnoxious new boss (Riegert) wins the battles but loses the war. Seldom have Caine's cobra eyes been used to better effect; it's a chilling tale, cleanly directed.
Cast and crew
Samuel L Jackson