DVD Review – Written for RAF News Aug 2015
Paul W.S Anderson’s debut features a young Jude Law and Sadie Frost as ram-raiders in an urban wasteland – driving stolen cars through shop fronts and taking clothes from the fallen mannequins in a whole different kind of window shopping. A bit of the ol’ crash-and-carry.
Billy (Law) is a joy-riding adrenaline junkie fresh out of a prison. An adolescent rebel eager to impress Belfast punk Jo (Frost) and make a name for himself. Coming home to find his possessions boxed up and hearing that a rival gang is growing into a criminal empire, Billy is losing sight of his place in the world and his recklessness is starting to draw unwanted attention.
Shopping takes place in a dystopian near future, shot on location in London but carpet bombed with smoke making it look more like Tim Burton’s Gotham. Caught somewhere between Mad Max and Cronenberg’s Crash, the film falls short of compelling or unsettling. The acting is ropey throughout but Law brings a fresh-faced naiveté to Billy that works for his character, with occasional glimmers of his cocksure charm, and Sean Pertwee is impressive as rival gang leader Tommy. Produced on an extremely low budget, the chase scenes are impressive if not sparse. Unfortunately the film has not aged particularly well and is mired in the technology and fashion of its day.
This is the 90s and so our rebellious anti-heroes sport black leather jackets and listen to electronica on cassettes. At one point Jo routes through Billy’s tapes and mocks him when she finds Spandau Ballet – this is a nod to Frost’s life off-screen, she actually left Gary Kemp for Jude Law after meeting him on the set of this film, and so the chemistry between their characters may be very real.
Featuring a few of the Primrose Hill set, the North Londoners who rose to fame in the 90s, it is interesting to see these actors together for the first time, before classics Love, Honour and Obey and Final Cut. Shopping is far more stark in comparison to these later more comedic films, and was actually banned from some cinemas for its glorification of crime – though it is definitely tame by todays standards. Now it is fully restored and being rereleased on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Whilst Paul W.S Anderson continues to make films based on videogames or in science fiction, this film is seen as his most serious and most impressive, though you can definitely see the through-line between this and his next film: Mortal Kombat.