Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Get Carter (1971)

Gør Carter Kold

The List suffers from too little Michael Caine, at least up to this point. In “modern” films Caine has always been the element that could lift any movie no matter how hopeless it otherwise was (Austin Powers just to mention one), but Caine had some very good roles back in the sixties and seventies and it is a shame that only with “Get Carter” we are served some on the List.

“Get Carter” is very much a product of its time, there in the early seventies. It is an impressionistic movie, which was very much in vogue, where the viewer is introduced to a world and a story without any explanation and left to sort it out for him or her self through what is presented. I cannot say I am 100% certain of the storyline, but probably need one or two re-watches to get the details. “Get Carter” also presents a worn-down world of degradation and corruption. It is the world of “Dirty Harry”, “Klute” and “A Clockwork Orange” where morals are flossy and lives are cheap.

Jack Carter (Michael Caine) is a gangster in London who learns that his brother Frank has died up north in his native Newcastle. Jack goes to Newcastle to deal with the funeral and, convinced of foul play starts to investigate his brother’s death. This is where it starts getting complicated. There are an awful lot of dodgy types going around in Newcastle, none of whom likes what Jack is doing. Local ringleader Cyril Kinnear (John Osborne) seems to have had a hand in Franks death. A rival to Kinnear, Brumby (Bryan Mosley) wants to use Jack against Kinnear. Jack’s employer in London, Gerald Fletcher (Terence Rigby) has worked out that Jack is having an affair with his wife and has sent a team of gangsters to Newcastle to pick him up and in the middle of all this Jack learns that Frank’s daughter has been coerced into making porn movies. Add to this a number of women whose attachments are a bit uncertain.

Quite a handful to keep track of and, mind you, none of this is explained. You sort of have to work it out as the scenes unfold.

And unfold they do. There is no filter on anything we are exposed to. Jack is a violent and ruthless man, his only redeeming characteristic is that everybody appears to be worse and that he does seem to be fighting a worthy cause, revenging his brother’s death. Brutality, torture and cold-blooded murder is dealt out liberally as is sex, drugs and, well more violence. I kept thinking of this as the long-lost twin of “Pulp Fiction”, there are just so many similarities. The main difference is the “Get Carter” never seems to glory in the violence as Tarantino is prone to. Its depiction is cold and factual, a color in the palette used to paint the rotten underbelly of this provincial city.

I did get caught up in it and found it very difficult to put down. Normally I find it very hard to root for a bad guy, but hey, this is Michael Caine and he is magnetic in “Get Carter”, even when he is ruthless. He is resourceful, but not in the gentleman fashion of James Bond, but simply because he is a better gangster than the rest. However, when he finds out that Doreen (Petra Markham), his niece, has been lured into porn we see his tears revealing a softer side.

There is also a compelling aesthetic in the choice of scenery and cinematography. I have never been to Newcastle, but, man, it looks like a dump. It is the setting of quiet despair and hopelessness that makes it a prime habitat for these gangsters.

This is a big recommendation!



  1. I love the young Michael Caine and have been looking forward to this. Your review seals the deal! If you are in the mood for a good entertaining heist movie starring him I can recommend The Italian Job (1969).

    1. I did consider it, back when I picked my 69 extra movies, but, well, did not like the remake so much and though it is unfair, it did send my attention elsewhere.
      Did you review the Ipcress File? I believe it was with Michael Caine. I am really sorry I missed that one.

  2. Haven't seen Ipcress File. It must be because I couldn't find it. If you haven't seen it, Caine's breakout performance in Alfie is fantastic.

    1. Again a silly miss from my side. It was only I read your review of it that I realized I had completely overlooked it.