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GET CARTER(director: Stephen Kay; screenwriter: David McKenna/based on novel “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis; cinematographer: Mauro Fiore; editor: Jerry Greenberg; cast: Sylvester Stallone (Jack Carter), Miranda Richardson (Gloria), Rachael Leigh Cook (Doreen), Alan Cumming (Jeremy Kinnear), Mickey Rourke (Cyrus Paice), Michael Caine (Cliff Brumby), John C. McGinley (Con McCarty), Johnny Strong (Eddie), Gretchen Mol (Audrey), Garwin Sanford (Les Fletcher); Runtime: 102; Warner Brothers; 2000)
“It lacks whatever suspense, character development, and ability to involve the viewer that is needed.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Sylvester Stallone is Jack Carter; he tells us that he’s someone we don’t want to know and you know, he’s right. This is a pointless B-film actioner, a remake of the gritty 1971 British noir classic directed by Mike Hodges — which had the good fortune to have Michael Caine be the star and to have a story with an edge to it. This “Get Carter” features mindless violence, an incoherent and uninvolving story and, most unfortunately, the humorless presence of the miscast Stallone. He’s a Vegas mob enforcer going to Seattle for the funeral of his bartender brother he hasn’t seen for a long time. He is seeking revenge — to find out who made his brother’s death look like a car accident and make them pay for it. He is dressed in a tacky bright blue suit, sports a goatee, and speaks in a low voice. It is filmed amid some dazzling night shots of Las Vegas casinos and shots of a rainy Seattle, though the rain has no effect on Stallone’s suit as it never gets soaked no matter how much he exposes it to the elements. When Carter threatens someone he says it in a serious tone, “This is going to another level.” It’s a clich√© movie…so predictable, that if you didn’t want to see the way the sleazy bad guys were going to get killed, you could have left the theater and figured it out for yourself. You would have missed nothing, there is absolutely nothing interesting about this film. It seems that Stephen Kay has taken a perfectly taut original film, which was nasty and unremitting to the core, and made a mess of the remake.

In this “Get Carter,” the women in Jack’s family are nice instead of being the nasty whores they were in the other version. Carter’s sister-in-law (Richardson) grieves for her husband and doesn’t understand what happened, but doesn’t want revenge. Richardson’s daughter Doreen (Leigh Cook) is a sweet girl, who is fashionably mod, with pierced jewelry in her nose. Doreen is the innocent girl who was raped and unwittingly put on videotape by Eddy, someone whom she trusted because he worked at the same bar as her father. Her father died telling the mob he was going to the police about this. Doreen is now being comforted by Carter, who relieves her of all blame and assuages his guilt for not being there for the family by vowing revenge. Carter tries to give the film a moment of acting, hugging his niece in a warm embrace as behind her back he grimaces with obvious pain on his teary face; but, also assuring the audience to pay little attention to this human gesture, they shouldn’t worry he hasn’t gone soft, there’s going to be payback.

The most disgusting role is reserved for “gazillionaire” computer geek Alan Cumming, he is the simpering coward, the most unmanly and therefore the most unseemly one in the film. He plays the over-the-top role of an obnoxious pansy who got involved in setting up a porn empire for Cyrus Paice (Mickey Rourke) and is afraid such publicity would kill his public image as a computer whiz entrepreneur. Cyrus is pure sleaze (in other words, he’s Mickey Rourke), but he’s at least manly in leather and dark glasses, with dumb broads draped around him wherever he goes. He is the most dangerous and violent of all the sleazes, the one who gets into a fatal fist fight with Carter. It could have been built as the battle between the sleaze vs. the egomaniac.

Michael Caine’s role is as a lowly club owner of a small place. It’s an undeveloped role but Caine is so good at getting credibility for his character — someone who pretends to have nothing to gain from the murder, who could therefore be honest about what happened but is, of course, somehow involved in the cover-up.

There are several other sleazes around who have various things to add to the story, such as more gratuitous violence. The most noticeable is Carter’s frenzied partner in the enforcer business (John C. McGinley) who keeps warning Carter to take care of business at home (Vegas), or the business will take care of you. Since Carter fails to heed such rational warnings, these two will clash in Seattle. Thankfully we have a car chase between the two besides the traditional gunplay, which is a break in the relentless monotony of the film. Anyway, no minor B-thriller should be without such a car chase.

The only positive spin I could put on this morose work, is to say that it could have been a lot worse. Stallone could have talked in a loud voice. This is just another in a long list of films since the 1980s to try and resurrect Sylvester Stallone’s “comeback.” This picture won’t do the trick. It lacks whatever suspense, character development, and ability to involve the viewer that is needed. It only features the ego-maniacal Stallone plodding his way through a shallow story.

If you want to see “Get Carter,” rent the 1971 video. It’s a nasty story, but it holds together in purpose and credibility, catching hold of the downtrodden Newcastle atmosphere in a subtle way, something this film was never able to realize for Seattle.

REVIEWED ON 10/25/2000 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”