Posted: 03/21/2001


Get Carter


by Del Harvey

Updating of ’70s action flick improves on the original and adds depth to the genre.

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When the original version of this film was released in 1971, the world was a different place. An uptight, violent individual like Jack Carter was not the type of character who fit either the hero or anti-hero mold. In that earlier film he was portrayed as a dinosaur and was pretty much held at arm’s length by every other character in the film. My, how times change.

In the 2000 version, Sylvester Stallone’s verson of Jack Carter is still a dinosaur. But there are subtle differences. The world is the cynic—not Carter. The weasely character is now a billionaire, the slimiest person a respectful businessman, and Carter is suddenly the one person with any sense of morality. Well, there was another, but he’s dead. That was Jack’s little brother, and his death is the reason Carter has returned home to Seattle.

The main plot centers around Carter’s search for his brother’s killer and the cover-up which prevents big brother from learning the truth. The main side story involves Carterh’s Boss’ dissatisfaction with Carter’s going home without getting his approval. And there’s that pesky involvement between Carter and the Boss’ girl. The plot appears heavily layered, but none of it is new, and after a bit of comparison, I’m sure you’ll find a handful of other stories just like it. The difference is in the morality angle.

I know this might sound odd to most of you, but I think this has something to do with Sly’s interest in the film. He plays a character with a basic moral code who lives in an extremely immoral society. He calls himself a “financial counselor” and describes his work as helping people remember the promises they’ve made. If you look at his character’s motivation and actions, this rings true. He is also a violent character, but he has to be in order to survive in this highly immoral world. He knows his limits and his abilities, and he makes the best of them.

In the original, Michael Caine played the part of Jack Carter with disdain and aloofness. His portrayal was complex, if not timely. In the contemporary version, Stallone’s Carter contains a complexity that is fresh and intriguing.

Directed by Stephen Kay, Get Carter is an throught provoking as it is action packed. He even manages to squeeze a good performance out of the uneven Mickey Rourke, as Cyrus Paice, an internet porn baron. Miranda Richardson is the widow left to pick up the pieces while chiding Carter for not being around when his brother needed him most. John C. McGinley, so effective as the psycho killer in the television miniseries Intensity, plays Carter’s partner, an equally psychotic sort of another flavor. Thona Mitra furthers her career as “the sexy vamp” playing just that (she was last seen to full detail in Hollow Man). And Michael Caine gets a small but meaty part in this version. He is a very gifted actor and can make any role worth watching.

But the most intriguing actor is Rachel Leigh Cook (the upcoming Josie And The Pussycats and The Babysitter’s Club) as Carter’s teenaged neice Doreen. She and Carter develop a bond of sorts which reveals the tough guy’s true nature and helps the viewer understand why it is so important to Carter to set things right.

The soundtrack, by Tyler Bates, is full of contemporary rhythms, trance and techno. Interjected is Carter’s theme, which sounds as though it has been lifted from the original soundtrack of the 1971 score. If so, the marriage is pure genius. The jangly piano notes suit Carter’s entry into any scene, there is that much tension in the air.

Get Carter is an action film worthy of the label. And an intriguing diversion in which Stallone shows his continued growth as an actor. Next time you’re at the video store, give this one a try.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and lives in Chicago. He is a survivor of Lucasfilm, the Walt Disney Company, and the Directors Guild of America.

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