Friday, March 22, 2013

Get Carter (1971): British filmmaker Mike Hodges styllish crime thriller starring Michael Caine

The trendsetter for the gangster films of '70s & '80s


A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

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Get Carter, Directed by Mike Hodges, starring Michael Caine
Get Carter (1971) By Mike Hodges
Our Rating: 8.5
IMDb Ratings: 7.5
GenreCrime | Thriller
CastMichael Caine, Ian Hendry, Britt Ekland
Country: UK
Language: English
Runtime: 112
ColorColor (Metrocolor)

Summary: When his brother dies under mysterious circumstances in a car accident, London gangster Jack Carter travels to Newcastle to investigate.



Get Carter is a 1971 crime thriller film directed by British filmmaker Mike Hodges. The movie’s screenplay, written by Hodges himself, is based on a 1969 novel named Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis. Hodges' directorial debut, Get Carter stars Michael Caine in the lead role of Jack Carter—a small-time gangster operating in London for the Fletcher brothers. The movie’s support cast includes Ian Hendry, Britt Ekland, John Osborne and Bryan Mosley. Get Carter revolves around Carter’s whirlwind pursuit to uncover the truth behind his brother’s mysterious death in the city of Newcastle. But, Get Carter is not a typical run-of-the-mill British gangster film of the ‘70s. On the contrary, it's a commendable work of cinematic art that has often been looked upon as a touchstone for filmmaking. The credit for which should go to Hodges and Caine who opted to walk a completely different path by choosing to portray violence and criminal behavior in a rather gritty and realistic manner. Needless to say, it was something that hadn’t been previously attempted in British cinema. In fact, Get Carter single-handedly set the tone for the gangster films of the '70s and the '80s. Before analyzing the other aspects of the movie, it’s essential to throw some light on the movie’s plot. 

Michael Caine as Jack Carter, beats up a mafia guy, Get Carter, Directed by Mike Hodges
Michael Caine (Right) as Jack Carter in Mike Hodges' Get Carter
When Jack Carter hears about his brother’s sudden demise, he travels to his hometown in order to perform the final funeral rites. Carter suspects foul play and refuses to give any credit to the police report that downplays the incident as an open-and-shut case of suicide. He starts his own investigation. Carter starts interrogating his brother's friends and acquaintances. In the meantime, Carter also seeks out his teenage niece and tries to console her by extending some monetary help. But things soon turn sour as the local mafia gets involved. And Carter suddenly finds himself stuck in a limbo. With his back against the wall, the only thing that he can rely upon is his own instincts. Will Carter succeed in unraveling the mystery or will he meet his brother’s fate?

Michael Caine as Jack Carter, rescued by uber-sexy mobster's moll, drives him out of harm's way, Get Carter, Directed by Mike Hodges
A Still from Get Carter
Hodges doesn’t take the easy way out. Instead of restricting his narrative to the sole purpose of plainly finding answers to these simple questions, Hodges enriches his well-packaged narrative with a strong visual appeal, thereby succeeding in offering to his audience a cinematic product that is far more mature and intelligent. Get Carter essentially serves to be a visual delight that titillates the viewers with images that get permanently etched in their memory. While there are several unforgettable sequences in the movie, the one that stands out is the scintillating finale. The cogent yet subtle manner in which Hodges links the movie’s climactic sequence to an early scene wherein Michael Caine’s character looks up at a co-passenger (in the train) wearing a ring with a conspicuous "J" symbol is simply magnificent.

Ravishing Britt Ekland in Get Carter, lying on bed, talking on phone to Jack Carter, erotic scene, Get Carter, Directed by Mike Hodges,
Ravishing Britt Ekland in Get Carter
Get Carter is quite easily one of the finest gangster flicks ever made. It's arguably the most formidable example of the superiority of British cinema over its much-hyped American adversary: be it in terms of style or substance. Even after four decades of its release, Get Carter appears strikingly fresh to the eyes. In fact, it has a lot to offer to the current and upcoming breed of filmmakers. Be it direction, screenplay, editing, cinematography or music, Get Carter scores heavily over most movies of its kind. The movie is refreshingly bold in the manner it presents its subject and exudes a sense of contempt for the pusillanimous style of filmmaking generally prevalent at the time.  

Michael Caine as Jack Carter, pays off the bar tender for his damages, Get Carter, Directed by Mike Hodges
A Still from Get Carter
Hodges’ sublime direction is well backed up by Michael Caine’s power-packed performance (arguably his best performance ever) wherein he uses to great effect, his knowledge of the criminal behavior, based on his interactions with real-life criminal acquaintances in order to help develop the character of Carter. Caine’s Carter is like an unstoppable force that proceeds with the intensity of a madman possessed by the devil. The rest of the cast complements him really well. And the combined effect of Wolfgang Suschitzky’s cinematography (some of the crane shots are a real treat) and Roy Budd’s fusion music (innovative use of tablas along with the modern equipment) is mesmerizing to say the least. Over the years, Get Carter has inspired many films (and filmmakers), including a remake starring Sylvester Stallone, but none could match the brilliance of the original.

Get Carter: A Still from the movie's stunning finale, the sniper takes an aim at Carter, Get Carter, Directed by Mike Hodges
Get Carter: A Still from the movie's scintillating climax
Overall, Get Carter serves to be a stylish work of cinema that enthralls, excites and entertains. Get Carter offers gore, intrigue, eroticism galore. Hodges' claustrophobic world is replete with heinous mobsters and uber-sexy molls, and then there is the vicious yet alluring Jack Carter who neither forgives nor forgets. Hodges and his technical team offer great attention to detail resulting. There is an obvious undercurrent of dark humor that's almost a norm with British filmmaking. Get Carter has a strong sense of pathos and irony which elevates it to even higher levels of brilliance. Get Carter is timeless cinema that has enough to engage the masses and aficionados alike. Those on the lookout for intelligent cinema that's also high on entertainment quotient wouldn’t be disappointed. 

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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6 comments:

  1. Lovely review, Ali. It's nice to read these type of things from another perspective.

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  2. Well... I am really glad you liked it, Jay!!! :-)

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  3. I'd heard a lot about this film, but your review helped me see why its such an important him. Is Michael Caine the most underrated actor ever?

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  4. Caine was and always will be one of the coolest actors to grace the screen. And Britt Ekland is just perfection. Another great post Murtaza! It really makes me want to watch this one again.

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  5. Thanks Bonjour... I am really glad that you liked it. As far as Caine is concerned, what really got me hooked were his latter performances as a character actor: be it The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige, or Children of Men. I could sense something sensational about him even in those smaller roles... I mean here was this actor who would steal every scene that he is a part of. It was only later on that I got the opportunity to explore his earlier works. Even in an above-average movie like Dressed to Kill, he is simply arresting to watch, let aside his much superior works like Sleuth, The Italian Job, etc.

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  6. Get Carter is one of my favorite films of the period, one of the best film noirs, with a smashing performance by Caine. Caine and Hodges followup, Pulp, is even more interesting in some ways. It begins as a parody of film noir, with an excellent voice-over narration by Caine. If you only remember Mickey Rooney from Andy Hardy films, you're in for a surprise. It does end with what might seem on first impression as a piece of overly abstract surrealism.

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