Get Carter (1971) Directed by Mike Hodges
"You know, I'd almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow"- Jack Carter.
Real life gangsters, I've seen a few. They say there is something exciting about being in the same room as a gangster. Not true, it just breeds fear. Glamor will always seem attractive to those who don't have it or never see it. Michael Caine plays Carter, a stylish, Burberry wearing, pill popping gangster assassin out to revenge the murder of his brother. He kills with a nonchalance that is disturbing.
Britt Ekland, Roy Budd's ultra cool soundtrack, Hodges realist direction and you have an iconic film. Hodges also manages to capture the spirit of Northern Britain in the early 1970's. Newcastle looks barren, not a place you'd like to visit, this dead end seems like a big empty wasteland.
Get Carter shows the sordid details, this ain't no Hollywood. Two fat ladies cat fight in a working men's club. Over-the-hill landladies flirting with the customers. Dodgy council men involved in porn and extortion. It's grim up North! Get Carter has much in common with that other groundbreaking British gangster picture Performance. Both films share a seediness and sexual tension you don't normally associate with the gangster genre. Get Carter has the Northern grit as a bonus. This film is no nonsense.
It took me a while to be in the mood for Get Carter. I am bored by the idea of a gangster movie because they normally seem so far from my sense of reality. Then again, some days it is a best choice to opt for something far removed and emotionally outrageous. So the evening finally came when I was willing to see why Carter has to be found, had, and killed.
England looks great in the early 1970s, and this film describes the claustrophobic combination of the rural way of life with the grit of city living. It passes the subject of South versus North, poor against the rich, and shows how the new corrupts the old. The soundtrack is unbelievably modern and goes with the main characters' outfits (notice the impeccable black trench). In fact most of the gangsters in Get Carter look like indie rockers of today (although some of them are too old to rock).
What usually disappoints me with this genre of film is the lack of believable justification for action. Here again, Carter's motivation for a killing spree is not so much the murder of his brother, but the fact that his niece has appeared in a porn film made by the local gangsters. For the swinging London gangster, this is supposedly too much. Yet, in his own life he is happy to go to bed with any woman half willing and available...
I am interested to go and see The American, because from what I have read it belongs to this genre of film. And, yes, some revengeful gangsta action isn't that bad from time to time when mixed with style, slow tempo and European landscapes.