A Shock to the System

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For the 1984 book A Shock to the System (novel), see Simon Brett. For the 2006 gay-themed film, see Shock to the System (film).
A Shock to the System
A Shock to the System poster.jpg
Directed by Jan Egleson
Produced by Patrick McCormick
Written by Andrew Klavan
Music by Gary Chang
Cinematography Paul Goldsmith
Edited by William M. Anderson
Peter C. Frank
Distributed by Corsair Pictures
Release dates
  • March 23, 1990 (1990-03-23)
Running time
91 minutes
Language English

A Shock to the System (1990) is a U.S. dark comedy crime thriller film directed by Jan Egleson, starring Michael Caine, Swoosie Kurtz, Elizabeth McGovern, and Peter Riegert. It is based on the 1984 novel A Shock to the System by British author Simon Brett.

Plot summary[edit]

A family man named Graham Marshall, a long-time executive in a large advertising company, is unexpectedly passed over for promotion. Marshall himself can live with it, but his nagging wife Leslie is devastated and continually reproaches her husband for his apparent lack of ambition and willpower.

An unfortunate accident occurs in the subway, caused by Marshall, in which a panhandler is killed. It goes unnoticed, which gives him a whole new set of ideas as far as his future life is concerned.

Deciding to take revenge on all the people who have caused him problems in his life, Marshall starts meticulously planning their violent deaths. This includes his wife, whom he eventually electrocutes, and his young rival at the office, Bob Benham.

Marshall becomes much better acquainted with an office colleague, Stella Anderson and narrowly averts being caught even after it is clear that Stella has figured out his complicity and has the evidence to destroy him. However by keeping his cool he is able through a new found ability to cajole and intimidate, to recover the evidence before the police. When none of the murders is linked to him, Graham feels vindicated in his belief that murder is a justifiable way to get what he wants in life. He passes the point of no return and embraces his method to climb higher up the corporate ladder.


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