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Get Carter

movie still

Director: Stephen T. Kay
Screenwriter: David McKenna
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Alan Cumming, Mickey Rourke, Miranda Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Rhona Mitra, John C. McGinley
Release details: Warner Bros, USA 2000, 102mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Gangster thriller
Rating: 4 out of 10

On the plus side, Get Carter (2000) opens with the familiar haunting Roy Budd theme (here re-interpreted to good effect by current Bond composer David Arnold). But, we also get a pretentious quote: "That's all we expect of man, this side of the grave: his good is, knowing he is bad." It must be said that it's a bit brave of a Stallone film to start with a quote which offers such obvious jokes about its star's abilities and his apparent lack of self-awareness regarding same.

On the updating front, our action has moved from London and Newcastle to Las Vegas and Seattle. Stallone is a mob enforcer in the old Vegas tradition of breaking knuckles. His immediate boss is Con (the peerless John C McGinley), but his big boss is an uncredited James Gandolfini, who appears in voice only. Much to their annoyance, he scampers off to Seattle when he hears that his brother, Richie, has been killed. The offcial line is drunk driving, but Jack already thinks it's murder before he's heard the details and he begins investigating.

There are various problems with the updated Get Carter, but most of them are down to the choices of its director, Stephen T Kay. For all that I said above about Sylvester Stallone, he is capable of heart-felt, low-key performances, as we saw in the original Rocky and in Cop Land. But the entire cast here are reflecting the director's clear preference for style over substance: Stallone offering mumbling instead of genuine menace; Rachel Leigh Cook's Doreen smoking at her dad's funeral and her body art as shorthand for "deeply troubled teen"; Alan Cumming's smarm.

Kay's approach is to shoot at bizarre diagonal angles with lots of annoying jump cuts, like NYPD Blue on its worst day, but without that series' defining moral centre. His Seattle is a dark, rainy place (dark = foreboding, obviously) full of danger and scumbags. And no-one goes to Starbucks even once! One assumes that the Seattle Tourist Board does not have his name on their Christmas card list.

The bright spots in the movie - and they are few - are Miranda Richardson as Richie's widow, Mickey Rourke as the local drug dealer and David Arnold's score, which does more than our hapless director can to evoke the mood of the piece. Poor Michael Caine as Cliff Brumby looks lost and almost constantly perplexed.

Screenwriter David McKenna sticks fairly close to the original script (often very close, in dialogue terms) but he - or, possibly more likely, the studio bosses - decided that the film couldn't maintain the original downbeat ending and so this Carter is a story of redemption and not revenge. If there were no original with which to compare it, it would merely be a middling to poor gangster flick. Certainly US audiences, with very little knowledge of the original, stayed away from it in their droves. But there is an original and the remake can't help but come up short on almost every level, whch means that each mis-step and wrong turn is magnified.

The stats

Production budget $40m
US release date 5 October 2000
US box office $14,967,182
UK box office -
UK certificate 15
US rating R

Sources: IMDb, BBFC, The Numbers, MPAA
About ratings and certificates.

Trivia

Get Carter was voted the worst remake of all time in a poll published in October 2004 by ScreenSelect.co.uk. Jude Law's Alfie came sixth.

External Reviews

Rarely has there been a less thrilling thriller... James Berardinelli (Reel Views)

Links

The Get Carter site: the original Get Carter site, with a wealth of information on the superior original and the poor Stallone version (but concentrating mainly on the Caine version).

Alan Cumming has an official site which he actually has a very strong hand in (no pun intended) and a number of fan sites.

Sylvester Stallone has his own official site, which is long on bells and whistles, slow to load (at least on my home connection) and a bit sparse on detail. The Get Carter section has barely a three-line synopsis and a very brief cast list. His brother Frank's site is much more suitably overblown and therefore entertaining. (My personal favourite is Frank's claim that he almost won an Oscar for acting and singing.)

Rachael Leigh Cook's official site doesn't actually exist at the moment, but the page does have links to recommended fansites.


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