Picks and Pans Review: A Shock to the System

updated 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Michael Caine, Elizabeth McGovern

This movie about mid-life-crisis murder exists as much to be a vehicle for Caine as all those '40s Westerns with titles like Song of Nevada, Heart of the Golden West and Springtime in the Sierras existed to be vehicles for Roy Rogers. While a lot of other actors could play the part, it's hard to imagine many of them making this much out of this little.

Caine, as a New York City marketing executive passed over for a promotion he deserves at the office and buried under nagging he doesn't deserve at home, gleefully gets into the fury of his character. He's onscreen almost the whole time.

The role of a young subordinate who becomes Caine's lover seems far too passive and slight for an actress of McGovern's talent and experience. But she has a vivid moment or two, as do Peter (Local Hero) Riegert as the ruthless young competitor who one-ups Caine at the office, Swoosie Kurtz as Caine's unsatisfiable wife and Will (No Way Out) Patton as a persistent state police detective.

There's too little plot as it is to reveal any of it. Let's just say that this is the sort of mildly twisty story that Alfred Hitchcock could have boiled down to a half hour for his old TV series. In this case, veteran TV director Jan Egleson and debuting writer Andrew Klavan let things run on an hour longer and leave loopholes gaping.

Caine, though, adroitly shares his character's catharses with the audience, and the minutes do just fly by when you're wreaking revenge. (R)

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