Once upon a time, Billy, directors made action films . . .
Mykal Banta | Boynton Beach, FL USA | 04/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a standout example of the way they made action films back in the 70's: hard, grim, and without an ounce of mercy. To exemplify the difference between a 70's action film and one made currently, it would do to contrast this film with the 2000 remake with Sylvester Stallone in the title role. In the 2000 film, a touch of pleasant humor and romance are thrown in, and it is clear that Carter (Stallone), despite the fact that he makes his living as an enforcer/gangster, is basically a nice guy; someone it is very important for us to like and identify with. He ends up being the savior of all those he loves and cares for. He is a mush, is what he is. An anti-hero without any true anti.
Michael Caine dominates the original 1971 film Get Carter. He has the coldest eyes you will ever see on screen, and he has a heart made of Birmingham steel. Briefly told, the plot is one of revenge. Carter is a London gangster traveling north to the gritty, working class town of Newcastle to find out what happened to his brother, dead under strange circumstances.
Caine/Carter isn't really very cunning or smart. What makes him so dangerous is that he acts very quickly, almost instinctively like a huge cat on the hunt. A burning red engine, stoked to bursting with hate, drives Carter and keeps him alive in this world of wolves and sheep. No actor can portray pure hatred like Michael Caine, and the teeth-barring moments when Jack Carter is moved to violence are truly scary. Once Carter begins to unravel the truth, he becomes a force without pity. Where Stallone can't help but wish to be liked, Caine is about as repulsive a protagonist as the screen has yet shown us. If we find ourselves rooting for him (and we do), it is because the movie has tapped into our own dark side. Nothing "life affirming" here. His vengeance is not done with splashy special effects or done artfully like Peckinpah's mannered "ballet of death" scenes. No, here the punishment is metered out like grim factory work, done under an ashy, wet sky.
This film is a vision into a mist-soaked hell, where rain falls instead of fire, absent of angels. It is also a masterpiece and not to be missed. -Mykal Banta "
Get Caine's best performance in this gritty film.
Christopher J. Jarmick | Seattle, Wa. USA | 12/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This little seen gem features one of Michael Caine's finest performances in a taught, dark, perfectly realized character study of a professional killer who seeks revenge --no matter how high the cost may be. The film was obviously a direct influence on several latter British films such as Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa. Films that unflinchingly focused on character, rather than story and presented a full dimensional portrait without justification or apology to the audience. It was remade as a blaxploitation film called The Hit Man too.You can see it's influence on recent films such as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Limey with their simple revenge driven motifs. Those films however add gimmicks and tricks to the mix. Get Carter trusts its material and it's actors and stays disturbingly quiet, and on the surface simple-though internally quite complex. It's a bit of a stretch but there are influences of Get Carter in Taxi Driver as well.Get Carter remains a very English (as in British) film. It's a film which was undoubtedly influenced by John Boorman's 1967 classic Point Blank. The way Michael Caine plays Carter will remind you of a darker, more cynical and somewhat more mature Alfie (the cheeky Casonova from the 1966 film that made Caine an international star). He's an over-confident, immoral, womanizing hit man who'll snap his fingers and demand a pint of bitter in a thin glass and then later have phone sex, while being observed with his mistress, Brit Eckland (a cutting edge scene in `71).Some of the events in the film are inspired by real life events, but ones few Americans have ever heard of (concerning British gangsters). The film is purposely stripped of any visual poetry and shows us a drab, Newcastle. There are seedy pubs, run down row houses, sloppy construction projects and polluted beaches peopled by working class people who have little hope, few dreams and little money. You won't find noir influenced shots of shadows and light, fog or atmosphere. Director Hodges is being stylish by carefully avoiding a sense of style, observing methodically, like footage shot for some unimaginative city planning board study. It creates an underlining feeling of despair and takes us to places almost absent of any charm, whose only character is one of slow rot. Of course this makes a good analogy to what Carter is internally. He's crossed over all ethical and moral lines in his life too many times to remain untouched. And he can't ignore what he's become when it's caused his brother to be brutally murdered. At times Get Carter is a brutal film. There are sudden explosions of violence in the film which are ugly as violence truly is. When we realize there is a bit of good in Carter, it means we also realize he's made choices which have doomed him to this life. As the film progresses we realize that several choices he's made have created an inner-turmoil and horror Carter barely lets us see.The film is slowly, not manically paced and invites some degree of contemplation. It becomes a rich film experience, though not a pleasant and breezily entertaining one.It's a film of shadows, of thugs and gangsters who are not glamorous, or romantic in any sense of the word. The humor comes from the desperate bitterness of the characters we meet. Characters played to perfection by Ian Hendry, Bernard Hepton and John Osborne (who wrote the play Look Back in Anger).Caine, is superb. He refuses to remind us he's acting and wears his role effortlessly. He never forces a line or a look or tries for audience sympathy or understanding. Anyone who relishes great performances will find this one among the best on film. So even if you have seen too many gangster films, and even if the prospect of seeing a rather bleak one doesn't interest you all that much, perhaps the fact it contains Caine's best performance will convince you to watch Hodges' 1971, GET CARTER soon.--Chris Jarmick, co-Author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder (- a steamy cyber thriller available January 2001. Please pre-order it today.)"
The girl... tell me about, the girl.
Paul Fogarty | LA, United States | 01/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Get Carter" has got to be THE standout performance of Michael Caine's highly variable career. Caine, who was the undisputed "King of Cool" in 60's swinging London, has readily admitted that he took many a script just for the money... something he had in common with Sir Laurence Olivier! Anyway, I guess this is why we not only have the superlative "Carter," plus "Zulu," "The Ipcress File," "The man who would be king," and "Little Voice" amongst others, but we also have "The Swarm" and, "Jaws: The Revenge," 'nuff said?! Caine's performance in "Carter" is breathtaking; you can't take your eyes off him for a moment as he completely jettisons his likable "cheeky cockney geezer" persona, seen in such films as "The Italian Job," and "Alfie." Here, Caine plays Jack Carter, a cold hearted, cold-blooded killer, an enforcer for the London Mob. I jokingly mentioned "Jaws: The Revenge" in my introduction, but one of the characteristics that makes Caine's portrayal of Jack Carter so memorable are his eyes. Throughout the whole film they're dead, like a sharks, with not a trace of humanity reflected in them; they say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and with that being the case, Jack Carter's soul must be a thing of unmitigated darkness. Carter is out to discover the truth behind his brother's death in the North of England, and if needs be, to exact bloody revenge on all concerned. The official report is that his brother's death was a suicide, needless to say, Carter doesn't believe that for a second... and with good reason. The film begins with a prologue set in London, where Jack asks for time off from his enforcing duties to travel north; permission is reluctantly given, and Carter soon finds himself immersed in a desperately sleazy world of pornography and drugs. He starts making waves almost as soon as he arrives, roughing up the locals, asking questions people don't want to answer; "Do you, know a man, named Albert Swift?" It's obvious that no one, from the local porn-king, to his dead brother's girl, who may, or may not know the truth, wants him snooping around. The story of "Get Carter" is brutally straightforward, and this is reflected in the actions of the title character. As the evidence starts to mount that his brother was in fact murdered, Jack becomes a terrifying angel of death, cutting a bloody swathe through assorted local low-life and scum. And it's this aspect of the film that sets it, and the character of Carter himself, apart from just about every other "gangster" film ever made. With neither pity nor remorse, and driven by the only emotion he can feel, a burning hatred for those who killed his brother and corrupted his family, Jack Carter sets about single-handedly exacting a terrible revenge. In nearly all gangster movies, big, when it comes to guns, is good, and BIGGER is BETTER. The 'hero' invariably dispatches his adversaries to the grave with a witty quip and a hail of lead, preferably of the .357 or .44 magnum variety, lovingly captured in a hi-definition, slow motion ballet of death. This is a modern cinematic fantasy, and when done well - see nearly anything directed by John Woo - gives the viewer a visceral thrill to be sure, but it's not real.The violence perpetrated by Jack Carter is real, shockingly so. He has a gun, two actually, a shotgun he uses in a blackly comic scene to warn off a couple of the boys sent from London to bring him back, and a pistol he uses in a brief shoot-out, but mainly shoves in peoples faces to make sure he gets what he wants. When it comes to dealing out retribution, knifing a man to death who's on his knees begging for his life, beating a man almost unconscious and then throwing him off an office block, half drowning a woman in her bath, kidnapping another woman and injecting her with a heroin overdose, or beating a man to death with the stock of his shotgun, Jack definitely prefers the personal touch... he's just that kind of a guy!There's a rawness to "Get Carter" that is almost unique. The portrayal of the criminal underworld is grim and repellant, with, thankfully, no attempt at all made to mitigate the actions or character of Jack Carter, a very brave move on the part of the director, Mike Hodges, and Michael Caine himself. It would have been easy for Caine to have given us a nod or a wink, something to let us know that Carter isn't all THAT bad, but what we get is Jack, in all his undiluted savagery. The most telling scene, and a stunning performance by Caine, is one where he's watching a porn film. What we see of the movie is shabby and degrading, and I won't go into details for obvious reasons. Jack watches, a cold, wry smile hovering around his lips as he enjoys a smoke, but his expression slowly changes to one of horror and disgust as he recognizes one of the participants. Then finally, and possibly for the first and only time, Jack Carter cries tears of pain and despair for another human being. This plays out wordlessly; you see it all written on Jack's face, as I said, a stunning performance by Michael Caine. "Get Carter" is an incredible film, it isn't always comfortable to watch, the final scenes will leave you drained and breathless, but it is a film I would recommend without any hesitation whatsoever."
Great Movie With a Great Performance
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 10/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Caine plays Jack Carter, a London gang member who specializes in strong arm intimidation. He learns that his younger brother has died in the north of England, in Newcastle, while drunk; maybe a suicide, maybe an accident. Carter, against the wishes of his gang bosses, leaves to find out what happened. He knows his brother never drank. He pokes around, ignores the warnings to lay off from both the Newcastle and London gangs. He figures out who is responsible and, despite murder attempts, starts to take cold-blooded vengeange.
Carter has no remorse. People who help him, people who get in his way, people who try to stop him, all get hurt. Often by Jack Carter; it doesn't make any difference to him. One kid who helps him gets beaten within an inch of his life. Carter is barely sympathetic. He kills a woman with an injection of drugs because she played a part in his brother's youngest daughter being in a porno film making the rounds. But he does it deliberately, for a larger purpose. He's a thug, but cunning, and he doesn't care. One nice touch: he reads Raymond Chandler. On the train ride to Newcastle he's immersed in Farewell, My Lovely.
In the end he succeeds, but pays a price that says irony may be even better than justice.
The look of the movie is grimy and tough. Newcastle is a workingman's town, with pubs that are dirty, featureless council flats, and a lot of concrete. There's no fresh air here, just stale breath and cigarette smoke.
This is one of Caine's great roles. He's utterly believable. A side note, one of the slimiest of the villians, a porn lord, is played by John Osborne, the playwrite who wrote Look Back in Anger.
I can't recommmend this movie enough. Mike Hodges, who directed, also directed Croupier and I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."
Sly - abig man in bad shape with Carter it's a full time job
Piers | Melbourne, Australia | 10/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watch, enjoy and love so many, many films...but if I had to pick one as being my absolute favourite, it would have to be this one. Michael Caine in a move to shed off his "lovable" Cockney 60s persona's (eg. Alfie, The Italian Job etc)stars as Jack Carter, a mid-level London criminal who decides to go back to his hometown in Newcastle to find out the real reasons behind his brother's recent death.Upon arrival he cuts a path through the local crims and con men to find out "...what really happened". This film is just so entertaining. Caine has never been better. He's icy cool and malevolent, has the right quip for any occaision and will stop at nothing to reach his goal. The Tyneside locations are absolutely perfect in reflecting both the urban and moral decay that seems to prevail, Hodges' direction is tight and well paced, Roy Budd's music is eerie and loaded with 70s cool, all the supporting characters have their own moments, the dialogue is great and the action setpieces are gritty and realistic, and above all (as was the late 60s - mid 70s practice) no charcter comes out of this film a winner. I have been burning for the DVD release of this film for some time now and I cannot wait to see the film remastered and with a bunch of extras. Having finally got to see it at the cinema recently has only fanned the flames further.This is a wonderful, wonderful film (especially if you like crime films) and the recent news of Sly Stallone's remake fills me with horror. Is nothing sacred anymore? This film didn't need a remake (although I admit affection for Bernie Casey's "Hit Man"), and that's because they got it so right the first time..."