A Shock to the System is a 1990 film starring Michael Caine based on Simon Brett’s stand-alone novel of the same novel. Before writing the book, Brett was associated, in the crime genre, with a string of witty whodunits featuring the actor Charles Paris, so this represented a considerable departure.
I read the book at the time, and enjoyed it. One of the interesting aspects of the book is that it can be seen as a modern spin on the idea of Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles – a put-upon chap resorts to murder to solve his problems, and various complications ensue.
A striking feature of the film is not just that the screenplay was written by Andrew Klavan, a notable thriller writer himself, but that the action was transplanted to the USA. Furthermore, the ending was completely changed. I don’t know why this was done, or what Simon Brett thought about it, but it means that really one has to judge the film quite separately from the book.
On the whole, taking the film by itself, and trying to put the book out of my mind, I thought Klavan just about got away with it. Caine dominates with his usual smooth efficiency, and in effect the result is a crisp piece of black comedy that makes for pretty reasonable entertainment. Worth a watch.