Customer Review

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The girl... tell me about, the girl., January 26, 2003
This review is from: Get Carter (DVD)
"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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 21, 2010 4:28:20 PM PDT
Grev says:
'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!'

That was all Caine's idea! - According to Caine he pointed out to Olivier that though he was the most celebrated actor in the world he was also flat broke as critically acclaimed plays won't bring in the bucks! Solution - which Olivier thought was brilliant - go tell your agent you'll accept a couple of films/adverts for the money, no matter how bad the scripts are. And the rest is history... (p.s. Olivier died pretty rich, never having to worry about money ever again!)

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2014 9:51:39 AM PDT
P. G. Croft says:
All the 'Luuvie' actor Knights followed suit. What was good for 'Dear Larry' was good for them all. P G croft UK.
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