Friday, July 15, 2011

Get Carter (1971)

Dripping Darkness

- Get Carter (1971) is of a gangster film class all by itself. Jack Carter is a gangster from London who goes north and back to his rotting hometown of Newcastle to find out who killed his brother Frank Carter. He plans to retaliate against those who killed Frank, going alone with more enemies than friends in Newcastle and his own London crime organization chasing him down to try and bring him back.

If you are a fan of Michael Caine, then Get Carter is a must see. Caine is beyond excellent here, giving a performance generally unlike the rest in his long and illustrious career. Caine is Jack Carter, the character might seem dark on the page but it is more Caine than anything else that really brings the character to life. Caine's Carter is not a hero, his actions are vicious and speak louder than that of his enemies. Still, you root for him because he lost his brother and is after people who are worse than him, not because he is a model for courage and nobility. His guard is let down a couple of times in the film, opening a window into his damaged humanity, but blink and you might miss it - Carter has been devoured by darkness long ago ("I'm the villain in the family, remember?") and his brother's death only enhances his brooding and violent nature. Carter is able to suppress his feelings with an aberrant quietness but is also quick to boil over - and Caine brings out these qualities superbly. Caine is the MVP of the film; even if you do not like gangster films, Get Carter is a must see simply because of Caine's performance.

Get Carter is a brutal film, not holding back the violence, sex, and drugs of the British underworld for the sake of the viewer. However, it is not your average gangster flick. Unlike other films of similar genre lines that are graphic for the sake of shock value, Get Carter films the graphic scenes of violence in an artful way, and even do a lot for the story and development of the Jack Carter character. You might wince, but in the end you also sit back and think "that was a great scene." The film's story is simple on the surface - Jack is trying to bring justice to those who killed his brother. However, as the film progresses, one finds out more and more about the circumstances that led up to the murder, and as a result, witnesses Jack's reaction to it all. This gives Get Carter a detective film feel set into the dirt of an unruly gangster film which is very interesting.

The film is well shot, with a real gritty look - perfect for the dirty and unchecked nature of the film. The angles, the zooms, the pans, and everything else that go into the camera work are all top-notch - the way the filmmakers highlight one of the characters eyes, hiding the rest of the face behind something else in the shot, is especially great. Get Carter does have a slower pace to it and all the supporting performances are fine, but are nothing much to write home about outside of John Osborne who was great as the slimy Kinnear. Still, riding a good script, well shot picture, and a career highlight from Caine, Get Carter is a great and unparalleled gangster film.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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