Lindsay Anderson, working again with Malcolm McDowell and Robert Sherwin, continues his comic comment on corruption in British society when Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell), the school boy from IF. . ., sets out, like a modern Candide, to make his way in the business world. Anderson stretches the boundaries of cinema with an eclectic use of movies within movies, silent-film-style title cards, surreal fantasies, actors playing multiple parts, and a live soundtrack. Alan Price appears on screen singing several songs. In the lyrics to one song he sings, ‘Someone has to win in the human race, if it isn’t you, then it has to be me’, which is thematically linked to Mick’s rise and fall in his career journey from lowly coffee salesman to assistant to Sir James Burgess (Ralph Richardson), the most evil man in the world.
This is a very fast-paced, wildly creative, cinematic tour-de-force that set the standard for expanding the boundaries of British cinema in the early 1970s. McDowell, who is on screen in almost every scene, keeps the bizarre situations from overwhelming the human emotions with a marvellously expressive performance. In the end, with a sly Zen message, Anderson tells us that in a crazy world we can only look within ourselves for a reason to smile.