When you think “British film”, the genre of gangster flick doesn’t immediately come to mind. In the same way, think of Michael Caine and what comes to mind is more than likely “dapper old chap” and not “badass”. It is this against-type sort of filmmaking that has given us Get Carter, a British gangster film starring Michael Caine as a man who pretty much personifies the concept of a British badass. Sure, he doesn’t go in guns a-blazing, or blow things up just so he can walk in slow-motion away from the blast without looking back, but the one thing that the film gets across about Jack Carter is; this is a man that you don’t want to fuck with.
Jack Carter is a lower-level gangster in the employ of one of the London mob families. Upon finding out that his brother is dead, he refuses the official explanation of his passing as a drunk driving accident and sets out to investigate for himself who he suspects killed his brother. This trail of clues, however, will lead him a little farther than he may have wanted to go, as he finds out exactly why his brother was killed and sets out on a one-man warpath of revenge. Normally, this sort of synopsis would be pretty exciting, and anticipation of the film in question would be built. With Get Carter, however, it is necessary to quell that anticipation before it has the strength to stockpile. This is an extremely muted film, in both mood and visual aesthetic. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call it neorealism, because the material the film deals with is very much cinematic in nature, but the film itself has that Italian-born style right down to its core. Michael Caine’s performance as the titular character aids in this assessment greatly; he plays Carter as a man brimming with boiling water underneath the rim, but it never boils over until the plot twist at the middle of the film has him fully embark on his rampage. But, even with my using the word rampage, the film still feels reserved all the way through, like it wanted to stretch its wings out beyond what its creators were comfortable with it doing, and so the film itself just comes off as unbridled potential without the execution. One additional note that didn’t help my viewing all that well was that it was rather difficult to keep track of who was who, especially when just about every character that shows up in the film is revisited in the second half. Nobody is really named in such a way that sticks out in our minds, so all the characters kind of blend together into an amoeba of a cast, which is mildly frustrating when the plot tries to convey that certain individual people are culpable for certain individual plot points.
What rubbed me the wrong way the most about this film, from the beginning all the way to the ending, was how unceremonious it all was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if the filmmakers are opting to capture how these events may very well have played out in real life, but, as I’ve now found watching Get Carter, it doesn’t make for very compelling viewing. The saving grace of the film is Caine’s performance, but to watch such a drab and emotionless film for this one saving grace is an exercise in tedium; at least it was for me. I actually feel a little disappointed that I’m not as in love with this as most of the rest of movie lovers in the world seem to be, but them’s the breaks, I guess. I can’t call this a bad film, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it all that much either.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10