Reviewed by: Curtis D. Smith
|Featuring:||Sylvester Stallone, Miranda Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Michael Caine, Mickey Rourke|
|Producer:||Mark Canton, Neil Canton, Elie Samaha|
That ambiguous group of film critics known as “they” often assert that remakes and adaptations, two categories that would both include the film “Get Carter”, are doomed from the get-go.
They also say they are simple-minded revisions of stories that usually didn’t amount to much in the first place (like “Gone in 60 Seconds”, “Mission: Impossible” or any of several Disney flicks). They are just a marketing ploy aimed at the pocket books of a bygone fan base. To complicate the issue further, the makers of “Get Carter” claim it is both a remake of the 1971 British film by the same name (which also starred Michael Caine) and an adaptation of the novel “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis from which the original film was adapted as well.
This version is touted as the kindler, gentler Carter who is motivated by love for family rather than cold retaliation. But it is simply a modern, politically correct makeover of Hollywood’s typical anti-hero rather than a bona fide reformation of the action hero. One thing is for certain, however, a pig is still a pig no matter how carefully you bathe him, dress him or put him on display.
“Get Carter” is that pig, but he’s sort of a handsome pig with interesting features and a semi-winning personality. It is a film that shows just what a director and cinematographer can do to an otherwise tired plot if given the right tools to work with.
The story begins in Las Vegas where Jack Carter (Sylvester Stallone) works as a mobster. His job is to beat the dickens out of tardy debtors after reciting his catchphrase: “Hi, I’m Jack Carter, and you don’t want to know me.”
Carter’s fun-loving career is put on hold when he learns that his alienated brother has been killed in a car crash. With a sudden inexplicable concern, Jack heads off to Seattle to pay his respects and find out what exactly happened.
Jack’s unannounced arrival adds anxiety to the problem that gets worse when he starts asking questions about the night his brother died. His widowed sister-in-law, Gloria (Miranda Richardson), and his niece, Doreen (Rachael Leigh Cook), shun him and ask him to leave, but Jack won’t quit.
Instead, he makes a beeline for Seattle’s underbelly (did you know Seattle had an underbelly?), starting with his brother’s former place of employment where he begins asking questions of the club’s owner, Cliff Brumby (Michael Caine). Brumby nervously directs him to one of Jack’s old rivals, a scumbucket pornographer named Cyrus Paice (Mickey Rourke), and the violent games begin.
It isn’t long before Carter starts to uncover a few clues that lead him to suspect a murder plot. And when he finds a piece of evidence that prompts his niece to come clean about a dark secret, Carter unleashes his trademark justice on everyone involved.
Beyond that the story line is a confusing mess of baffling sexual illegalities, bribes and intimidation that has something to do with a billionaire computer mogul (Alan Cumming). While the comprehensible portion of the plot is tired and overused (like so many Jackie Chan or John Wayne movies) it does have a fresh look and feel rarely seen in action movies today. Described as “subdued colorings and evocative shadows” the film’s look portrays a dark emotion when coupled with incessant rain. Fortunately, the contrasty, sepia toned look of the film adds some authority to the story rather than acting as a distraction.
Where that fancy film work should offer more distraction is with the inadequate character authenticity. The filmmakers do make an attempt to portray a sense of good versus evil, but the “good guy” is simply the lesser of two evils. His attitude of redemption toward his estranged family could lead one to believe Carter is at a point in his life where he understands his moral choices he made in the past have had a negative effect on his life. And though he makes amends with his niece, and exacts revenge on her sexual abuser, his brand of justice is simply vengeance rather than forgiveness.
It seems most of Hollywood’s action genre films focus on vengeance (an act which God lays claim to in no uncertain terms throughout His word). Even in Old Testament times where the law and justice typically ruled over grace and forgiveness, God warns us that “Vengeance is mine, and retribution. In due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near and the impending things are hastening upon them.” (Deuteronomy 32:35). While vengeance seems effortless, and forgiveness so difficult, God promises He will make things right in the end and that we should not try to take matters into our own hands.
Additionally, the story deals with the topic of sexual abuse and its horrible ramifications, but rather than let its audience use its imagination to explain the abuse the film illustrates the idea with a series of ostentatious snippets, unnecessarily spelling it all out. This, and the nonstop violence and foul language make “Get Carter” a hard film to enjoy on a moral level. As long as you are adequately warned, “Get Carter” comes off as a somewhat watchable film (at least for an action flick). But what can we expect? A couple car chases here a couple bar fights there and, as usual, a couple of unnecessary sex scenes and you’ve got yourself a paint-by-numbers adventure right? Sure, but it merely adds up to a boorish rehash of all the stuff we’ve had to sit through many times before. And who wants to spare $8 for that?