Although rather fond of the British and Gangster movies, I find my liking of them to be relatively slight. That’s by way of saying I wasn’t too big on the original Get Carter (1971) starring Michael Caine, which some consider one of the best British films of all time. Take that Dial M for Murder (1954)! Anyway. They remade this movie and called it Get Carter (2000).
Jack Carter (Sylvester Stallone) is a Las Vegas heavy who goes up to his home town of Seattle for the funeral of his brother Frankie. There he starts interrogating people about his brother’s death because he suspects something (for no explained reason). He talks to Frankie’s daughter Doreen (Rachael Leigh Cook) who suspects foul play and his widow Gloria (Miranda Richardson) who continually reminds Jack that the time to help Frankie was when he was alive. After all, he’s dead and it’s too late. Jack, do you think you’re going to help him? ‘Cause you’re not. He’s dead. Dead people can’t be helped except when they used to be alive. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? In the background, Jack’s partner in thuggery, McCarty (John C. McGinley), tries to keep Jack in Vegas (or to get him back to Vegas) because, with Jack, works for Fletcher–whose moll Audrey is played by Gretchen Mol, with whom Jack was affairing–who is a tough Vegas mobster. Outside the family, Jack meets up with Seattle-thugging acquaintance Cyrus Paice (Mickey Rourke), computer “gagillionaire” Jeremy Kinnear (Alan Cumming), ho Geraldine (Rhona Mitra), and there’s also Brumbly (Michael Caine) who ran the bar where Frankie tended.
It’s a pretty stylish movie. I know this because there are sliding frames, Moby, Seattle, raves, frosted tips, and sunglasses. It’s hip. In the beginning of the movie, I’m thinking “Will the style never end?” I feel like a parent with a teenager—“Turn off the music and talk to me!” Music. Break. One sentence. Break. Music. That Tony Scott (RIP) thing where things go real fast and then slow down and go real fast again. Break. One sentence. And so on. After a while the movie stops going through that cycle and Carter begins his hard-nosed and relatively dense investigation and I wish we could go back to the music video.
The writing from David McKenna is hilarious (as in laughable). “Am I pretty” Rourke asks. To which Stallone replies “Yeah, like cat piss in the snow.” Odd simile. There was one line that I did really like. Caine says “One thing I do know is that revenge doesn’t work” and Stallone says “Sure it does.” I thought that was pretty good. One more. “I’m not turnin’ round” he says. “Suit yourself.” Bang. Bang. Those last two are the kind of lines that should stand out in a hard boiled-nose thriller like this. When they compete with the sheer stupidity of some of this dialogue, I just think “aww” like when a soap bubble pops. In my eye.
In many ways it is the exact inverse of the original Get Carter that valued the gritty and realistic. This version, directed by Stephen Kay, is glitzy. A couple comparisons 1971 to 2000 (both based on Ted Lewis’ Jack’s Return Home (1970)). London to Vegas, Newcastle to Seattle. Eric to Cyrus. Anna to Audrey. They also made Stallone cry where Caine is a stone-cold individual. Otherwise, things are roughly parallel. But it’s the priority of the various plot elements that make a difference but casting is central. Stallone is a beefy pugilist while Caine had to rely on quick hits and guns. Stallone plays Carter as a sympathetic guy who just got caught up in the wrong game. Caine played an amoral gangster who didn’t know there was an alternative. That makes the choice of Stallone jarring. While he pulled that balance off in Cop Land (1997)–excellent by the way–that was by making him weak and self-conscious. Not here. Here, Stallone plays the fantasy of a sensitive-enough tough guy who can do no real wrong–after all he only beats up the slime.
A mediocre attempt that comes out a bit too silly to be seriously enjoyed.