Sunday, March 23, 2008

Get Carter (1971)

The Action Mutant…
can see Michael Caine star with Homer Simpson in “Get Laid”, the story of two horny, old bachelors trying to get some.

Get Carter (1971)

review by Joe Burrows

A letter I recently received:
Dear Action Mutant,
Ello, this is Michael Caine, alright? World famous film actor and winner of two Best Supporting Actor Oscars. TWO I SAY! Anyhow, I wrote your esteemed publication to express my deep fondness for your red blooded, manly view of the art known as the action film. There aren’t enough people out in society with the cobbles to say what needs to be said but you put it out there, sir! Whiz-bang good job to you and any business or life partners you may be currently supporting or hiding from judicial incarceration.
I would also like to lend my seal of approval as far as reviewing any of my particular films on your site. Mainly, I would recommend my 1971 classic Get Carter. Now I know us British have a reputation in the states of being a mite foppish (i.e. queer) but I act really mean in this one. Really I do! And the one thing you don’t want is an angry Michael Caine. Because that will happen if you review On Deadly Ground or that blasted remake of Get Carter. And God help you if you review Jaws: The Revenge! Like a pimple on me arse, it is! Other than that, Cheerio!
Sincerely, with great regards,
Michael Caine.

- Who knew, right? Didn’t buy that? Ok, let’s just move on, shall we?

The Plot, as it was:
The Caine man stars as Jack Carter, a vicious mob assailant that comes back to his old stomping grounds in Newcastle upon hearing that his brother died by drunk driving into the river. Funny thing is ol’ Jack’s brother never drank and Jack…well, he’s not a saint to put it lightly (he’s a drunkard, a womanizer and…oh yeah, hitman…almost forgot!), so Carter’s not shopping at that store. Instead, Carter shops around for answers by coldly weaving his way through the town’s mobsters (who dabble in everything from arcade game distribution to underground porn) to find out why it was his brother and not him. Of course, the cover up brings about things the mob wouldn’t want Jack to know about so he gets orders to leave town and stop being a snit. Oh, bloody ‘ell!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Although such films as Snatch and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels are sought for their originality, they wouldn’t have a life if it wasn’t for Get Carter (or its American influence, Point Blank). The refreshing thing is the lack of gimmickry and quirks that the Guy Ritchie films (and their rip-offs, more so) possess, as opposed to this effort. Yet, it encapsulates a weirdness of its own, not to mention a mean streak a mile and a half wide. In a career known for award winning and polarizing performances, this is arguably the best Caine’s ever been. He plays Carter as a cold, efficient mercenary who can be charming but rarely lets his heart show through (the only few times are when he cares for his niece Doreen, played by Petra Markham. Note: Doreen is also hinted as being Jack’s daughter.). Along the way, he schtupps as many birds as possible, yet it all comes off as business more than pleasure (Carter’s phone sex encounter with Britt Ekland’s Anna is more robotic than erotic, for example). Ultimately, Carter is a cold hearted bastard, just as much as his enemies, where vengeance and other human elements (personal and family relationships) will never be enough to satisfy. Caine plays this all very skillfully, as he never comes off as inhuman or even unlikable. The viewer roots for him because he’s the hero but comes to realize that his pursuit will be empty and futile, which is readily supported by the dour, seedy locations and slimy (but not over the top) villains. Though buoyed by several memorable moments, Get Carter is a stark portrayal of a man on a vicious track without end. And it’s quite entertaining, too!

Body Count/Violence: 7. Though not overly kill-happy, Get Carter takes care of its business in unflatteringly brutal fashion. Carter brandishes a shotgun but never actually uses it; he’s more apt to pummel a foe down with it. There’s also shooting, stabbing, car chases, whiskey drowning, drugging, heads sent through car windows, people being thrown off of parking garages, etc. Carter also smacks uncooperative women around, which makes him more of a peach.

Sexuality/Nudity: Carter gets busy with more than just killing. Aside from the phone sex scene with Ekland (she’s topless in black lingerie; tame by today’s standards but still fun), Geraldine Moffat, Dorothy White and Rosemarie Dunham all get nude at the assistance of Carter at some point. There’s also some fuzzy porno images and sexual footage via projector. Not much sex shown per se but the suggestion makes things more lurid.

Language/Dialogue: Not much at all, surprisingly. More of the “bloody” and “bollocks” variety.

How bad was it?:
It’s pretty universally praised, as it is the standard bearer of the British Gangster film. Of course, critics savaged it as nasty and scummy during its initial run but the majority eventually came around. And anything that’s usually universally praised gets remade, hence the empty Sly Stallone remake in 2000 (with Caine appearing as Cliff Bumbry there). Even Caine himself said it best: “I wish they would remake the BAD ones!”

Did it make the studio’s day?:
MGM released Get Carter in New York on 3/3/71 and 3/18/71 nationwide. Though no budget/box office figures are available, it was not a hit originally. However, the film’s rep has grown over the years (which eventually led to that unfortunate “remake” business).

Film: ****/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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