Thursday, November 19, 2009

Film Review: GET CARTER (1971, Mike Hodges)

Stars: 4.8 of 5.
Running Time: 112 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry (THEATER OF BLOOD, REPULSION), Britt Ekland (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, THE WICKER MAN), John Osborne (writer, LOOK BACK IN ANGER, TOM JONES, LUTHER), Godfrey Quigley (the Prison Chaplain in CLOCKWORK ORANGE). Score by Roy Budd (THE STONE KILLER).
Tag-line: "What happens when a professional killer violates the code? Get Carter!"
Best one-liner: [Caine hands money to a friend who's been brutally beaten, and it's Caine's fault]: "Here, go get yourself a course in karate. "

GET CARTER is brutality. Indifference. It's coal slag, grubby beaches, crumbling brick, crusty wallpaper, peeling paint- it's a catfight between two overweight women on the dingy tile floor of a hole-in-the-wall pub. A rotten world presided over by gloomy, overcast skies.

The people below begin to all look the same, their faces melding; their eyes acting not as mirrors for the soul, but merely 'piss holes in the snow.' Groaning and mumbling, they work, they fuck, they drink, they torture, they kill, they die. Pain and pleasure become the same.

Michael Caine is Carter, a London gangster who's come to Newcastle to unravel the mystery of his brother's death.

He plods and trudges and slogs his way to the finish line, his detached countenance masking pure, unadulterated rage. He wears a black trench coat, reads Raymond Chandler, drinks bitters, and behaves as if he is not surrounded by people at all, but rather troublesome, encumbering vines and nettles, which must be hacked and slashed away with nil remorse. An army of marching children play on kazoos. Carter, with nary a stitch of clothing, threatens some men on his front stoop with a shotgun. He stares. They stare. The children stare. His impassive gaze is ever present; whether engaging in phone sex, swigging from a bottle, or watching a woman drown.

His fortress cannot easily be penetrated, but his calm is punctuated by swift, ferocious bursts of violence. Occasionally the violence is accompanied by emotion.

John Osbourne, playwright and original angry young man, plays Kinnear, a crooked man in a country manor.

He engages in a battle of wills with Carter. One might not know it was a battle of wills if the sound was muted. This film refuses to spell things out for you, and, in many ways, it remains as inscrutable as its characters. A 70's Eurocrime masterpiece, and clearly one that has been well-studied by everyone from yakuza maestro Takeshi Kitano to Steven Soderbergh.


-Sean Gill


cook said...

I dont know how I winded up at your movie review. I was image searching for a young jon cryer... well, here I am some place else. I read your review and I now want to hunt down this movie and watch it. I am almost positive that I watched it as a kid and didnt have a clue. I appreciate the list in vein you've put at the bottom of your review. I'm gonna watch all of these! I have always found Mr Cain attractive for some odd reason. Okie doke, see you later!

Sean Gill said...


Thanks for stopping by, and glad you enjoyed!

Maurice Mickelwhite said...

Ah, Carter. Jack Carter. A more or less perfect film as far as we’re concerned.

Although it falls out of our reviewing remit, it’s one we still and always have a lot of time for.

Oddly - also my bosses favourite film!

Sean Gill said...