review by Dan Lybarger, 13 October 2000
Watching the current remake of
the 1970 British classic Get
Carter is like eating a piece of chocolate-covered broccoli:
these two "great tastes" do not "taste great"
together. The remake is nothing more than a grim story about a
gangster investigating his brotherís death laced with Touched
by an Angel sentimentality.
The 2000 version gets off to a bad
start and, unlike its protagonist, never recovers. The original
theme music mixes badly with director Stephen Kayís (The
Last Time I Committed Suicide) MTV-indebted visuals.
Stalloneís muscular physique, shades, tattoos and goatee beard
might intimidate some, but his brooding attitude seems all wrong.
Unlike his mushmouthed peer, Arnold Schwartzenegger (who radiates a
confident charisma that makes up for missing dramatic chops),
Stallone constantly seems to have to prove his toughness. In the
process, he comes across like a muscle-bound geek. The acting skills
he demonstrated in Copland
are almost never in evidence here.
Itís a rare occurrence when a
movieís leading man is continually upstaged by entire supporting
cast, but thatís exactly what happens in the "Millenium
Edition" of Get Carter.
When Jack Carter (Stallone) finds out that his clean-living brother
has died mysteriously in a messy drunk driving incident, he heads to
Seattle to pay his respects. The ideal picture Jack envisioned of
his brotherís life is not matching with the facts. Jackís
widowed sister-in-law (a sadly underutilized Miranda Richardson)
admits to having differences with her husband and is barely on
speaking terms with her daughter (Sheís
All Thatís Rachel Leigh Cook). His late brotherís bar is
co-owned by an evasive fellow (the original Jack Carter, Michael
Caine), who never gives Jack the details he requests. The gangster
quickly discovers that Seattle can be just as corrupt as his
hometown, Las Vegas. Thereís a cyber-porn racket run by an
ex-gangster (Mickey Roarke) and secretly financed by a wimpy
computer tycoon (Alan Cumming). All of these people are hiding
something, and Jack finds himself carrying the double burden of
playing detective and staying alive as both Vegas and Seattle thugs
try to do him in.
With all of this activity, itís
hard to think of another movie where danger has looked more boring.
The original film had a gritty, realistic feel that made the
outbursts of violence seem more shocking. When writer-director Mike
Hodges (Croupier) adapted
Ted Lewisí novel for the 1970 version, he changed the amorphous
setting to Newcastle, England. As a result, the dense rundown
atmosphere gave the story an entirely new level of tension. Hodges
captured the city so well, that a viewer feels like he or she can
find their way around the town without having to use a map. In the
new version, screenwriter David McKenna (American
History X and the insufferable Body
Shots) moves the backdrop to the Space Needle City and reveals:
- It rains a lot there.
- King County residents drink lots of
- Many cyber geeks call Seattle
- The communityís computer tycoons accumulated their wealth through unseemly means.
Because it dwells in a
stereotypical version of the city (that could have been written by
anyone who had never set foot in the city), Get
Carter is never believable or involving. Kay edits and shoots
the movie in a stylized "I want to John Woo when I grow
up" mode that makes everything seem even more phony. McKenna
makes things even worse by plagiarizing many of Hodgesí best
lines. Caineís bitter unrepentant attitude made the hard lines
frightening. When Cain describes another manís eyes as looking
like "p**s holes in the snow, a viewer recoils in fear. When
Stallone flatly mumbles, "cat p**s in the snow," one
giggles. Casting Caine in the new movie,only reminds us that, even
after all of these years, he is more intimidating and charming on
screen than Stallone will ever be.
The new version follows the
previous storyline closely. This is another mistake because Hodges
used the early portions of his version to soften up the audience
before he went in for the kill. Kay attempts to make an action film
out of this story, but the slow pace, and his sloppy staging blunt
his efforts. Kay comes up with dozens of gorgeous blue-tinted
images, but he canít edit car chases to save his life. Even when
there are only two vehicles, these scenes are hard to follow.
The executives who backed this
movie can be understood for wanting to change Hodgesí grim tale
into a crowd-pleaser. Why back a big-budget movie that will alienate
squeamish viewers like the 1970-version did? Unfortunately, by
taking away Jack Carterís meanness and unquenchable libido (the
original featured a delightfully ghastly scene where Caine has phone
sex with one woman as another sits in front of him), the new movie
reduces him to a boring thug. Without the morbidity, thereís not
enough action or anything else to hold oneís interest. The
original film, despite its grit, pleased enough people to have a
cult following and to be voted by the British Film Institute as the
sixteenth best British film ever made (The
Third Man was number one). The new film pleases no one.
There is a silver lining here.
Hodgeís original has just come out on a stacked DVD, so that
viewers can finally see Get Carter in its widescreen glory and can even listen to Hodgesí
audio commentary. The new version of Get
Carter should get lost.
Rachel Leigh Cook
Based on the