Paul W.S. Anderson's feature film debut, "Shopping" is a shockingly soulless, incredibly stylish endeavor from a man now known for his many commercial adaptations of video game franchises. The film also marked the debut of Jude Law, acting opposite Sadie Frost, whom Law would go on to marry and eventually divorce. Over the course of the film's 106 minute runtime, "Shopping" challenges viewers to stomach one of the most vividly boring film's in recent memory. While touted to be the first time the film has been released uncut in the United States, "Shopping" is a rather tame, anarchistic/nihilistic film that may have been shocking 16 years ago, but is now merely tacky and disposable.
Law exhibits little of the charm that would make him a critical favorite and heartthrob amongst female fans, steering the film as Billy, a young parolee who quickly meets up with Jo (Frost), his punk/goth/fad-of-the-moment looking girlfriend. The two quickly steal a better vehicle than the one they start out in and set to terrorize a bleak, moderately futuristic London. Anderson's visual style is apparent from the opening minute and there's no denying even as a young director with a script, ready to unleash his vision on the world, "Shopping" is utterly devoid of anyone or anything to care about, an ironic reflection of the views and themes of the film. Yet, it is very obvious Anderson wants us to care about the destructive duo; there are attempts to make you care, but they are all half-baked and quickly fall victim to Anderson's desire to wow you with eye candy.
As good as "Shopping" looks as a film, it's very derivative, with many set pieces reminding you of other films that did it much better. The frantic chases in small, passenger cars recall the anarchy of "Mad Max" and "The Road Warrior," while a few gang fights feel very similar to the style of the chilling terror unleashed by Hando and crew in "Romper Stomper," another small, independent, bleak film that opened two years prior. Anderson really tries hard to take likely past influences and combine them into his own homage to the dystopian film, but in the end, it all falls back on the original story: a romantic pair caught in a life of crime, trying to escape. Even the strong supporting cast, most notably the always-dependable Jonathan Pryce as a police inspector on the trail of the crime wave and Sean Bean as a slimy underworld figure fall flat. The actors portraying rival and fellow comrades in crime are mere caricatures, like so much of the film itself, left with nothing to do but look cool.
To Anderson's credit, the action sequences are initially exciting, taking the most unlikely vehicles and letting them loose with reckless abandon, but the gimmick tires quickly and the other action consisting of smash-and-grab robberies with the occasional scuffle and foot chase merely serve as interludes between the beyond dull storyline and stilted character interactions. The only consistent positive comes from the kicking, often intense soundtrack; if you've seen "Hackers" you will get a good idea of what to expect.
A part of me wants to like "Shopping" for it's aesthetics, but even the most flashy film has to have some spark of humanity or pathos; "Shopping" is devoid of anything to care about or care for. It's interesting only to see how much Jude Law has grown as an actor and how even now, the often maligned Anderson is a much more accomplished director, settling for often trite, "safe" commercialism rather than over-ambitious failure. I'll take his brain-dead "Resident Evil" films any day over having to sit through even 15 minutes of "Shopping." It is without question, a stylish, miserable waste of time.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is quite sharp looking, sporting little to no grain or digital noise. The cold, slightly washed out color palette gives the instant feelings needed in a dystopian film. Contrast is strong, while detail is above average, but consistent throughout.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is a real disappointment. Hollow and tinny, it sounds exactly like a poorly up-mixed stereo track, most noticeable in dialogue. The lower end of your system barely gets a workout, a great disappointment for an action heavy film. The English stereo track on the other hand, sounds more lifelike, despite the limitations of the source.
A feature-length commentary with Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt is definitely more interesting than the film, lending insight into the production amongst other things. A featurette covering the production of the film relies on Anderson and Bolt, while a vintage EPK featurette gives a few interviews with Law and Frost. The film's theatrical trailer is also included.
Shiny and hollow, "Shopping" is a complete waste of time, despite the names involved. Overly long and bringing nothing new to the table, it will test your patience and make you regret wasting your time. Add to the mix, a poor audio presentation and only the most hardcore Anderson or Law fans should even consider taking a look. Skip It.