The titular role in Get Carter (1971) is one of Michael Caine’s most iconic turns. When I watched the film for the first time recently, I did not exactly get what I was expecting.
For starters, the film is exceedingly dark in a way that most films of that vintage were not. It is essentially Caine’s gangster on a 110 minute reign of vengeance with no real thoughts of morality or notions of justice. The opening act of the film is relatively light on the plot details, the nature of Carter’s mission kept deliberately vague. It is a technique that is at times intriguing, at others frustrating. This is a strictly local gangster level tale, despite the labyrinthine plot at times recalling a globetrotting espionage film. Throughout the film, Carter is forced (or chooses) to shoot his way violently through a web of confusing familial relations and porno films, until he feels justice has been served. Or I guess until everyone is dead, whichever happens to come first. You get the sense that Caine’s cold-hearted Jack Carter does not particularly give a shit which of these eventualities comes to pass.
As for our guest of honour on the blog this week, put simply, young Michael Caine is such a dude. As an actor he is very adept at creating a real sense of character in his roles, easily slipping into a role and becoming someone completely different. All the things you hanker for in a 70s gangster flick are here – snappy dialogue and a very funky soundtrack, as well as plenty of sex and violence (those last two are dished out a little more gratuitously than was probably the norm back in the day). However whilst the film is definitely well made and on the whole I would say I enjoyed it, there is just something missing for me that keeps it being utterly essential viewing. Perhaps it is the fact that the film and the character of Carter take themselves so seriously. Who knows, perhaps it was because it was a pretty downcast flick and it was not something that I was in the mood for the night I watched it. All that said though, Caine is at his magnetic best here, so if you are a fan of the great man’s work, that fact makes it worth checking out.
The book “1001 Films to See Before you Die” in which this film features, describes it as “blunt and forceful” and I don’t know that I can put it any better than that. It lacks a bit in narrative and what is there is frankly a little confusing and unsatisfying. But Caine is well worth seeing in this as he gives a really good performance in what is a pretty downbeat flick.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
Don’t forget there is a competition all this week on the blog and all the details are here.