An all-style, no-content attitudinal actioner, “Shopping” is as blank-minded as its vapidly rebellious leading characters. Set in a vaguely futuristic Britain exclusively populated by valueless kids and fascistic police, this slick , sleek and empty joyless ride is immediately unhinged by its lack of credible forces of opposition; there’s nothing colliding here except cars. A candidate for cultdom in theory only, these would-be rebels without a cause will remain rabble without applause.
Along with “The Young Americans,” also showing at Sundance, “Shopping” stands at the forefront of the so-called “multiplex generation” of new British filmmakers. Repudiating the genteel, literary, Masterpiece Theater aesthetic, these directors aspire to the commercial big time as best represented by highly tooled American pictures. Or, as “Shopping” producer Jeremy Bolt put it, “We’re part of a new wave of British filmmakers whoare not afraid of saying we like ‘Lethal Weapon’ and are impressed by big-action directors.”
Still, “Shopping” has its sights set more on re-working aspects of “A Clockwork Orange” and “Blade Runner.” A sock opening, consisting of stunning aerial industrial landscapes accompanied by a pulsating score, wonderfully summons up a devastated, depersonalized world. Unfortunately, this remains by far the pic’s best sequence, as matters quickly devolve into silly plotting and violence devoid of meaning.
At the outset, when 19-year-old pretty boy Billy (Jude Law) is being released , he’s asked, “What’s prison taught you, Billy?” He replies, “Don’t get caught,” and that’s as philosophical as the picture gets.
Without missing a beat, Billy and his partner Jo (Sadie Frost) steal and trash a BMW in a profound bit of anti-yuppie crime as they head back into their nocturnal netherworld of street punks.
An “adrenalin junkie” who lives in a tiny trailer by the river, Billy is intent upon regaining his status as top dog in his anarchic world, which he can do by stealing cars and “shopping.” This consists of crashing vehicles into store windows, stealing and generally trashing the outward manifestations of consumer society.
Plot setup opens the door on an orgy of extravagant destruction, spurred on by Billy’s macho battle with Tommy (Sean Pertwee) to be the town’s best shopper.
Along with aping American actioners, tyro writer-director Paul Anderson, who comes out of TV, would appear to aspire to the mantle of the British Luc Besson, as his faith in the power of heavy atmospherics and thick style seems unlimited. Hardly a shot goes by without large amounts of smoke, fire and steam wafting over everything, all to the accompaniment of the usual rock music wallpaper.
Random violence and aimless kids may be symptoms of the times, but “Shopping’s” formulation of crime against department stores comes off as stupid and hardly formidable as a narrative foundation.
Newcomer Law seems more like a candidate for a British technorock group than screen stardom, and Frost, fresh from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” strikes a tough-girl pose throughout. Marianne Faithfull pops up momentarily as the proprietress of a video arcade, while Jonathan Pryce is obliged to supply world-weary opposition as a police chief.
Pic has put a big look on limited means to no good use.