"My name is Jack Carter, and you don't want to know me," says Sylvester
Stallone in the opening line of dialogue from "Get Carter," a loose remake of
the same-named 1971 film starring Michael Caine (who has a supporting role
here). An hour and forty minutes later, it was safe to agree with him that,
yes, I didn't want to know him, after all. "Get Carter" is a dimly lit,
brooding film noir that is as technically stylish as it is utterly mediocre.
With very little action to satisfy the appetites of die-hard Stallone fans
(save for two boring car chases), and a premise that is older than stale
bread, the film plays out in a way that more often than not causes the viewer
to question if they have seen the same proceedings all before. And,
unfortunately, they probably have.
Jack Carter is a violent, Las Vegas-based debt collector who has been
settling scores and making loads of cash for many years. Although he has
effortlessly adapted to his unconventional lifestyle, things change for him
with the news that his brother, who lives in Seattle, has been found dead at
the wheel of his car, the victim of an apparent drunk driving accident.
Carter, feeling guilty over not staying in touch with him over the years,
knows that his brother would not drink and drive, and suspects that he was
murdered--but by who? In an attempt to not only seek vengeance on his only
sibling's demise, but to also protect his apprehensive sister-in-law Gloria
(Miranda Richardson) and teenaged niece Doreen (Rachael Leigh Cook), Carter
sets out to find the truth about his untimely death.
In the depiction of a city where the sun never shines and the rain looms
ominously over the heads of the inhabitants, Mauro Fiore's evocative
cinematography is easily a highlight in the otherwise unextraordinary "Get
Carter," which boosts little interest outside of its camera trickery
(jump-cuts, overexposed lenses, etc.) and sparkling cast of familiar faces.
It's too bad, then, that no one besides Stallone, Cook, Rourke, and Cumming
make anything but a cursory appearance.
Sylvester Stallone, in his first return to the big screen since his
well-received 1997 foray "Copland," inhabits a sense of irresistibly
bad-assed coolness not seen since Mel Gibson in 1999's "Payback." While
Stallone is unable to paint Carter with more than two or three shades
throughout, he stands as a formidable symbol of how one should dress and act
if in the same line of work as he.
Everyone consistently plays second fiddle to Stallone, and some handle
themselves better than others, based not only on their talent, but how strong
(or ludicrous) the writing is at any given moment. Rachael Leigh Cook (1999's
"She's All That"), as the distraught Doreen, quickly warms up to the
appearance of Carter, who is not only her uncle, but someone whom she places
as a sort of father figure to replace her own dad. Cook equips herself with
finesse and clear signs that she is more than just a pretty face on the big
screen, even when asked to do silly or ridiculous things. Mickey Rourke
(1997's "The Rainmaker") is at his attractively slimy best as Cyrus Paice,
perhaps the only man Carter knows who is any sort of match for him. And Alan
Cumming (1999's "Titus," Broadway's "Cabaret"), as young millionaire computer
aficionado Jeremy Kinnear, stands out in all of his sparse scenes, adding
depth and memorable acting choices to a character simply vacant from the
written script, by David McKenna.
On the other end of the spectrum, the usually talented Miranda Richardson
(1999's "Sleepy Hollow), as Gloria, is merely cashing a paycheck, briefly
popping up only a handful of times and adding nothing to the film. The same
goes for Michael Caine (1999's "The Cider House Rules") and an unbilled
Gretchen Mol (1998's "Music From Another Room"), as Stallone's trophy
girlfriend back in Vegas.
Amidst the appropriately gloomy atmosphere and Stallone's star turn, "Get
Carter" is little more than a shallow retread of many, many movies gone by.
Attempts at character-building moments mostly fail due to the usually
lame-brained dialogue that screenwriter McKenna has ill-fatedly penned,
leaving us to follow a perplexing lead character whom we never grow to care
about, or even understand. Save for one mild surprise, the picture also
remains painfully predictable, leading to a conclusion that does nothing
except beg for a reason why anyone's time or energy was wasted making such a
throwaway movie in the first place.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman