25 JUNE 1994, Page 35


Shopping (`18', selected cinemas) Beverly Hills Cop 3 (15', selected cinemas)

Shopping with a twist

Mark Steyn

After Four Weddings and a Funeral, four ramraids and a riot, Shopping is the usual English Tourist Board promotional video fare: graffitti-ed inner cities bisected by flyovers and underpasses, thugs with chains huddling round braziers in derelict warehouses, council estate lynch mobs torching cop cars. It's being so cheeful as keeps the British film industry going.

Plot-wise, there's not much more here than you'd get on a quiet night in Hull: cars get stolen, rammed through shop windows, pursued by the filth, trashed by rival gangs, etc. Most directors would feel obliged to be at least mildly disapproving, but writer/director Paul Anderson has got a budget of £2 million and he's having too good a time for it not to show. Shopping looks like an audition for a glossy car com- mercial — the Peugeot ad with an unhappy ending: mmm, savour that burning uphol- stery, those melted tires! Less social com- ment, more radial chic.

The incidental music signals his sympa- thies, mimicking the heartbeat of his pro- tagonist. When Billy sets out on a carjacking, the adrenalin racing, the score pounds out the thumping bass of rave music; when he switches into victim-of- society mode, the soundtrack dignifies his brooding introspection by turning all elega- ic and symphonic. In real life, Billy and his girl, Jo, would be a couple of emaciated losers with bad skin. But, as played by hunky Jude Law and pert Sadie Frost, they're as good a recommendation as you could want for a life of anti-social working hours, irregular meal times, minimal per- sonal hygiene, drink and drugs and dossing down in dimly-lit subterranean caverns.

It's the principal representative of law and order who resembles something out of a government anti-heroin campaign. I saw Jonathan Pryce at a West End first night not so long ago and he looked great. But, as suave, stylish and sexy as he is in the flesh, on the big screen, film by film, it's like The Motion Picture of Dorian Gray. Last month, he was in A Business Affair; this month, incredibly, he's in even worse shape: a haggard dishevelled mumbling cadaver with the stringy locks of a Cabbage Patch doll. Maybe he figures a British movie isn't worth combing your hair and ironing your shirt for. As the ineffectual policeman, he wanders half-heartedly through four or five scenes, looking perma- nently distracted.

What's striking about the film is its total uninterest in anybody other than its joyrid- ing principals. Somebody must own the Fords and BMWs, the department stores and specialist boutiques, but Anderson couldn't care less. The middle class, the vast bulk of the populace who fill the Bar- rett and Wimpey cul-de-sacs of England, are the great dispossessed of our film industry. Property crime — and specifically car crime, now running at twice the rate of the US — is the big story of our time. To tell it yet again from the alienated youth's side is the soft option, too trite, too pat. Still, along the way, Anderson gives you plenty of useful tips on carjacking and ram- raiding. We don't have drive-in theatres in Britain, but maybe fans of Shopping will have a go at ramraiding their way into the local Odeon.

That Anderson's anonymous northern city is little more than a nocturnal theme park is emphasised by the twinkling logo of the shopping mall, Retailand — which unlikely name tells you a lot about the inventiveness of the script. Beverly Hills Cop 3 takes place in a theme park proper and goes to more trouble. A playground of futuristic rides like the Happy Forest and cuddly animal characters such as Rufus Rabbit, Wonderland is presided over by genial Uncle Dave and a very heavy-hand- ed private security force. Previously, I've always found Eddie Murphy and his gleaming dental work completely charm- less, but, pitted against the homogenised perkiness of a sinister theme-park, his strutting and preening are engagingly hon- est. A sequel is never equal, they used to say. True; these days, with Addams Family, Wayne's World and now this, the sequel is better.