SHADOW RUN

Shadow Run

SHADOW RUN (1998)

Tagline: “The ultimate heist… goes undetected.”

IMDb rating: 4.5/10

Michael Caine’s career has had more ups and downs than the proverbial rollercoaster. Yes, it’s been a fun ride at times, with some serious thrills and genuinely heart-stopping moments, but you know from the moment the car clanks noisily up that rusting gradient that it’s not going to be all breathless excitement and squeals of delight. There are going to be more than a few times on the way round when all you want to do is place your head between your knees and vomit your breakfast all over your feet.

And you’re regretting wearing flip flops.

shadow run

Even worse than 'The Shadow'

Caine is currently enjoying the autumnal “national treasure” part of his career where a rose-tinted look back at his films conjures up only happy memories. But we all know there are a few shark fins (both metaphorical and literal) hiding just under the cinematic surface.

Sadly, ‘Shadow Run’ is not the spectacular failure of Caine catastrophes like ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ or ‘The Swarm’ (both coming soon to Bride Of Crapula), but only because it never really escaped into the wild to permeate and poison. However, be under no illusion, it stands proudly alongside those bad movie touchstones.

The film itself – a tawdry British crime ‘thriller’ – was made in 1998, but took 4 years to finally surface publicly, and even then only when given away gratis with either budget DVD hardware, or rampant right wing Sunday newspapers.

The opening is the worst since Pandora’s box got an airing. The viewer watches bemused as a spritely long-haired man drive a Mercedes through a featureless quarry location, whilst a seemingly endless list of names of those responsible for this turgid squalor are flashed on screen for our derision and – presumably – reprisal.

The credits go on for so long, in fact, that by the time the car finally reaches its destination, the driver who emerges from the vehicle has miraculously transformed – maturing over the course of the journey from a ponytailed thirty-something into a slightly doughy 65 year-old Sir Michael Caine. Jesus, how long was he driving that car?

Shadow Run

The McGuffin (and entire budget) of ‘Shadow Run’

Caine plays career criminal Haskwell, a veteran thief with a violent streak like a doorman on steroids, and a lifetime of armed robberies that weigh heavy on his shoulders. So when the long-awaited “big score” finally arrives he wraps his liver-spotted hands around its throat and squeezes. The plan itself is as convoluted as a minicab driver’s shortcut. Caine’s gang of delinquent misfits – including Kenneth ‘Admiral Piett out of The Empire Strikes Back’ Colley and ‘Dirty Den’ himself Leslie Grantham (incredibly, the best thing in the film) – are set to relieve a security van of the raw materials used to make UK banknotes. This opportunity is provided by an apparent dead zone of radio communication along the van’s regular route, effectively making contact with the authorities impossible.

The plot is thickened still further by a witness to the gang’s previous crime – a nerdy schoolboy who needs to be kept quiet one way or another.

Shadow Run

"There is no God. I've seen Shadow Run"

The developing relationship between Caine and the kid – the latter also a loner on account of pudginess and peer pressure – is meant to suggest at least the chance of redemption for the lead character. Of course this isn’t easy when you’ve already watched Caine needlessly murder six people, including a naïve call girl who did little more than object to using her nursing skills for anything other than kinky role-play. But then it’s not much easier to feel anything other than indifference for the kid either – even his schoolmates and teachers seem more concerned that his disappearance will ruin their chances at a local choir competition than… you know… the possibility that he’s been tortured and raped and murdered and wrapped up in a bin bag and dumped in the woods. That’s public schools for you.

By the time we FINALLY get to the central robbery – and it honestly feels like you’ve been watching the whole thing play out in real time – you’re trapped in a film you can’t countenance, watching a situation you don’t understand, peopled by characters you don’t care for.

But like any heist – or any heist movie for that matter – it’s all in the execution. Sadly, the execution of ‘Shadow Run’ looks like it’s been attempted with a spatula wielded by a clumsy toddler… wearing idiot mittens.

The audience is sent hurtling downhill on a tonal slalom, lurching uncomfortably between a cosy Sunday night ITV drama, and a hard-edged, prostitute-throttling crime thriller… except with little excitement  … and minimal crime.

And there you have pretty much the complete picture. Well almost.

While 99.99% of ‘Shadow Run’ makes you wish you’d paid more attention during noose-tying classes back at school, there is one beautiful, life-affirming element that almost makes the whole sorry experience worthwhile.

Yes, the fat kid rides a Shetland pony at one point that could be the funniest Monty Python sketch they never wrote, plus Admiral Piett wields a cooked sausage as an impromptu laser pointer, but in comparison, these are merely amusing distractions. The real genius comes in an early scene where Caine visits the home of his aristocratic criminal benefactor who, for unexplained and presumably unexplainable reasons, is smack dab in the middle of a high class fancy dress party.

shadow run

Chap vs. Chapeau

You may have been to the Great Wall of China. You may have seen the Pyramids of Egypt. You may have even witnessed a grown man satisfy a camel. But you simply haven’t lived, bad films fans, until you’ve watched Sir Michael Caine and James Fox play out an intense scene while the latter is sporting A GARGANTUAN MAHARAJAH HAT. It’s vast. It looks like Fox is balancing a laundry basket on his head. It looks like he surely must suffer serious compression injuries. The whole scene takes place outside for a reason. The damn thing requires planning permission. It’s funnier than anything Caine managed in ‘Hannah And Her Sisters’.

Never mind the dialogue. Look at it. LOOK AT THE HAT. Look at James “Performance” Fox right in his stupid ENORMOUS hat.

What’s it for? Why’s he wearing it? The cameraman CANNOT get in the frame? Why? WHY?

It’s as magnificent as it is incongruous. As stunning as it is superfluous. In short this spectacular piece of Empirical headgear is the one and only (INCREDIBLY) high point of Shadow Run… its crowning glory.

Pun fully intended.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Tars Tarkas says:

    Wow, James Fox looks like he’s doing a Carnac the Magnificent bit! All we need is Ed McMahon laughing in the background…

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