Monday 30 January 2023

Mubi Monday: Shopping (1994)

The feature film debut from writer-director Paul W. S. Anderson, Shopping is an energetic slice of nihilism that places a number of pre-stardom UK names in a plot that often feels lifted from the Grand Theft Auto videogame series.

Jude Law plays Billy, a car thief who enjoys crashing into stores, looting some goods, and escaping with a number of keepsakes. He also enjoys picking a speedy car and teasing cops into a road chase he knows he will win. Sadie Frost is Jo, the woman who often feels like Mallory to Billy’s Mickey (albeit in a much less psychotic and murderous way). Having recently been released from a short stint in prison, you might think that Billy would be wanting to keep a low profile for a while, but that isn’t the case. Billy wants to continue on his many “shopping” trips, much to the chagrin of Tommy (Sean Pertwee), a man who finds his criminal business empire shaken up whenever Billy brings too much heat down on the local area.

There’s enough to enjoy here, despite the fact that the script isn’t strong enough to bring everything together in a truly satisfying way. Fair play to Anderson for refusing to make a British film that feels like a hundred other British films, and fair play to the person responsible for the casting, but there’s not much actual character development, and the dialogue is usually laughable and cheesy.

Law and Frost don’t work as well in the lead roles either, despite both being relatively good actors in other movies. Law feels okay when being cocky and confident, but doesn’t convince as much when having to mope around and convey the hurt and anger that helped to make him what he is. Frost tries too hard to be cool and tough, hindered by both the script and her attempt at what I think was supposed to be an Irish accent. Pertwee is excellent though, fitting well in his role. Jonathan Pryce is also very good as an authority figure keeping tabs on Law’s character, and there are small turns from Sean Bean, Eamonn Walker, and Ralph Ineson, among others. Marianne Faithful gets a notable position in the credits, but it’s nothing more than a brief cameo.

Whatever you may think of Anderson’s filmography, it’s easy to see why this worked well as a springboard to a career in the USA. He creates an intriguing, almost noir-like, version of modern Britain, tries to present some decent action, and has an impressive soundtrack to accompany the slick/grime visuals.

I wouldn’t recommend this as an essential watch, but there are worse things you could spend some time on. While Shopping may not hold up as any kind of modern classic, it feels like an important film for many of the people involved, both behind and in front of the camera. And it’s always nice to be reminded of film-makers who choose to make a bold statement, whether successful or not. This film is many things, but I think it certainly classifies as a bold statement.


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