Shopping (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Unless you're from the U.K., this is probably one of the better movies that you never heard of, starring what would now be a blockbuster cast internationally, most of whom were far less known at the time. The film features Marianne Faithfull, Sean Bean, Jonathan Pryce, Sean Pertwee, Jude Law, and Sadie Frost (Law's wife). To remake the film today, you'd probably have to pay Law more than the entire shootin' match cost in 1993.

Jude Law plays Billy, a lad recently released from prison who can't wait to get right back into crime. That same night, he's already stolen an expensive car, done some theft and vandalism, and led the cops on a high-speed chase.  

Billy is to theft as YoungAlex was to violence. He is an artist, deriving no financial gain from his work, his only satisfaction to make the crime as much of an anarchic and artistic masterpiece as possible. Now if you wanted to steal a pair of sunglasses from Harrod's, you'd probably just walk out with them on, or slip them in your pocket. Here's how Billy would do it: he'd steal an $80,000 car, drive it through a main window display at Harrod's, keep powering the car through the store until he got to the right department, and grab the glasses. Then he would listen to his police radio and wait until the police were at the door of the building before taking flight. To maximize his thrills, he'd wait until the police could actually see him before taking off, then lead them through a circuitous route that would result in him making a wild turn into a pre-arranged corner in a small town or industrial district somewhere while all the police drove madly past his lair. If he wanted to really have fun, he'd lead the police to a special place where they'd pull their cars up to him, thinking they had caught him, only to have their police cars destroyed by hundreds of Billy's waiting confederates, who drop TV's and refrigerators and various other things on the cops and their cars, while Billy and his girl drive off in their stolen BMW or Porsche.

Pretty cool.

Can you remember the whole concept of joy-riding from the 50's? Delinquents would steal cars not to own them or sell them, but just to drive them around wildly, then abandon them. If you can remember that or relate to that, you can relate to the mentality that drives Billy's actions in this film. What they do is "joy-stealing"

Like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, Billy has a rival gang leader who vies for the prestige of their peers. Tommy Boy (Sean Pertwee from Blue Juice) can't be compared to Billy, however, because he has no interest in art or anarchic fun. He uses his talent to steal for a profit, and thus earns the complete contempt of the purists.

The parallels to A Clockwork Orange run deep. At one point, Billy and his girl ram-raid a department store, and set off the fire sprinklers, at which time Billy grabs an umbrella and starts to dance-shop through the store in a visual tip of the hat to Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain". If you remember, Alex and his Droogies used "Singin' in the Rain" to serenade their rape victim. 

This film takes place in a completely different world from Clockwork. It is essentially modern day England, but Billy and his mates are the children of the forgotten industrial class. They live their lives in discarded caravans and (my favorite image in the film) in a train graveyard, where they eat and sleep after building a fire in a box car. All around them are the monstrous humming turbines, the effluent refineries, the blazing smokestacks, the working dock apparatus, the abandoned warehouses, and other symbols of the industrialized world.

I loved not only how the filmmaker converted the ugly industrial reality into a dream-world, but also how he made use of the inherent geometry and symmetry of technology. He has several camera set-ups that are nothing but pure shapes until the camera pulls back to show a loading apparatus at the docks, or an underground parking garage. This is a work of extraordinary visual imagery, even poetry. 


none. Sadie Frost was topless from behind, barely exposing a breast from the side-rear, and had a downblouse when the evil Tommy-Boy cut her blouse open.
I wish I could tell you that the story was as good as it promised to be. Unfortunately, it was not. The crimes and car chases were witty and daring, and the visuals were brilliantly realized, but the basic dramatic hooks were mundane:

1. Billy obviously has a death-wish, and I guess you can guess where that led him, given his ever increasing recklessness.

2. The rivalry with Tommy-Boy wasn't really played out with any great genius. 

3. The cop trailing Billy (Jonathan Pryce) was pretty much just another personality-impaired cop, a bureaucratic character with no background characterization, just a guy out to catch Billy.

4. There is no great examination of social issues, ala Clockwork Orange. Billy gets more and more reckless until his recklessness kills him. The end.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • no widescreen

  • no features

 But if the film is not A Clockwork Orange, well, so be it. Very few films can be compared to that masterpiece. But this film is certainly a unique look at the effect of mass industrialization on the class of kids growing up in the slums which exist in the shadow of the power plants. They see a dead end world in which they have little hope to escape their neighborhoods, and their daytime lives are joyless, so they live for the thrills of the moment each night, as many post-war generations have done in many different landscapes.

There were a few moments when I really got into it. There were also some moments when it was a routine crime movie.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.8, but I think it is better than that.. 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics - or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Good genre flick - a good grade b version of "A Clockwork Orange" meets "Snatch". Bare-bones DVD, but an interesting early performance from Jude Law in a strangely visualized story about thrill-seeking among the children of the poor working classes in industrialized neighborhoods.

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