Get Carter (1971)

“The only reason I came back to this craphouse was to find out who did it — and I’m not leaving until I do!”

Get Carter Poster

Synopsis:
A petty London gangster (Michael Caine) heads to his hometown of Newcastle to investigate the mysterious death of his brother.

Genres:

Review:
Steely-eyed Michael Caine gives perhaps his iciest performance ever in this cult British gangster flick, which is ranked 16th on the British Film Institute’s “Top 100 British Films of the 20th Century”. Based on Ted Lewis’s crime novel Jack’s Return Home, it tells the cold-blooded tale of a man hell-bent on avenging his brother’s death, who simultaneously discovers that his niece has become embroiled in a pornography ring. The convoluted plot is far too complicated for its own good, but what one ultimately “remembers” about the film are its fine performances, the gritty on-location cinematography, and its hard-boiled dialogue (“You know, I’d almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow.”). Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, and countless other modern filmmakers obviously owe an enormous debt to this bleak but groundbreaking movie, which you may find too genuinely unpleasant to really “enjoy”, but which should be seen at least once by all film fanatics. Remade with Sylvester Stallone (!) in 2000, but this version is widely considered a failure.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Michael Caine as Carter
    Get Carter Michael Caine
  • Mike Hodges’ stylish direction
  • Excellent use of diverse Newcastle locales

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Get Carter (1971)”

  1. Yes, a pip of a must! One ripping yarn!

    Can’t say I find the film convoluted at all – in fact, it seems not only straightforward but so rich in texture that it fares better during a second viewing (which I recommend).

    As the film runs along the periphery of the mob world, the often-leisure pace mandated by director Hodges is refreshingly deceptive, giving added power to the sudden bursts of violence peppered throughout. Certain scenes seem to stop almost in mid-conversation (right at the point where we have the information we need), while others segue briefly to ‘local color’ additions. (Though we don’t really need the information in these inclusions, they serve to spice up the film. My personal fave of these is ‘the girl fight’ in the cabaret bar.)

    Caine is here indeed at his ‘iciest’ (le mot juste!). In a role that would eventually echo a bit for him in Neil Jordan’s ‘Mona Lisa’, Caine is referred to a surprising number of times as a “bastard” – sometimes by people ‘in bed’ with bastards by profession. He is rarely kind but it’s significant when he is – as witness the goodbye scene with his niece: “Be good. Don’t trust boys.” (Significant as well is someone’s suggestion that his niece may, in fact, be his own daughter.)

    There’s a surprising amount of candid sex scenes on display. Perhaps the oddest scene in the film has Caine engaging in phone sex while his ‘landlady’ rocks disinterestedly (yet not so) in a rocking chair nearby. Sadly, the general view of women in this film is that they’re disposable. On the other hand, most of the men are as well.

    ‘Get Carter’ seems near-perfect to me – and, yes, it’s particularly lifted by great location shooting.

    The cross-editing of the final two sequences is masterful. And the ending couldn’t possibly be better.

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