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GET CARTER

Review by Andrew Manning (10/00)

Release: 2000, Warner Bros.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Miranda Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Mickey Rourke, Alan Cumming, Michael Caine
Director: Stephen T. Kay
MPAA Rating: [R] violence, language, sexuality
Genre: Action/Drama


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SUMMARY

A mob enforcer named Jack Carter (Stallone) seeks vengeance against the men who were responsible for the death of his brother.

THE SUDDEN RUNDOWN

Stallone plays it cool in this tale of unforgiving justice, but the story is unfocused and the action is lacking.

WHAT'S GOOD

As fashion conscious mob enforcer Jack Carter, Sylvester Stallone has a great presence that balances a tough guy image with inner turmoil. In the few scenes we're treated to of Carter taking down his enemies, the man is downright unrelenting and vicious--an Armani terminator capable of breaking anyone. These are perhaps the best moments of the movie, when the precarious story gives way to straight-out violence. On the flipside, Stallone is also able to convey the personality of someone who is haunted by the decisions he has made in life. And while this aspect of Get Carter is considerably weaker than its brawling component, it's at least an attempt to elevate the film above standard shoot-em-up fare.

Through his dedication to family and his mission of uncovering the circumstances of his brother's death, Jack Carter becomes an interesting crusader. There's something more to him than a basic contract killer character, and therein lies the movie's "A for effort" credentials. Carter's humanization is emphasized through the relationship he has with his brother's daughter (Rachel Leigh Cook), a young, confused girl he becomes a surrogate father to. Cook is easily the strongest link in the supporting cast, and while most of her scenes with Stallone suffer from bad editing, there's a definite chemistry between the two. It's refreshing and rare to see a father-daughter dynamic like this in an action movie, especially when Hollywood would rather make the old guy score with the young girl.

As the spoiled-rich CEO of a major tech company, Alan Cumming provides unintentional comic relief in an otherwise morbidly serious story.

Get Carter tries to straddle the fine line between mindless violence and a story about family and redemption, and for that, I feel it deserves a lot of credit. Ironically, though, this crossover attempt is one of the elements that contributes to the downfall of the film.


WHAT'S BAD

In trying to be a Hollywood hybrid that breeds action with character development, Get Carter uniformly fails at both. Because it's not simply about shooting and bashing, the action scenes are woefully few and short. Stallone assaults only a handful of individuals, and each attack lasts for about one minute. This is obviously a major disappointment to those expecting a rough and tumble "guy flick" in which Stallone slaughters everyone Rambo-style.

Conversely, the movie's gritty and imposing atmosphere work to snuff out the warm, fuzzy moments that explore Carter's relationship with his family. And for all the importance that is placed on Carter discovering his brother's killers, we never get a sense of the bond between him and his sibling. In fact, everyone seems to assert the opposite, always wondering why Jack Carter has popped up out of nowhere and suddenly seems to care. They ask this question so many times that you'd think it should eventually be answered. But that critical aspect of the movie is never satisfactorily explored. Why does Carter care all of a sudden? Is there a sense of guilt, or does he really want out of his current lifestyle? And if so, why?

A plot thread that could have explained a major portion of Carter's personality involves a girlfriend he has shacked up in Las Vegas, played by Gretchen Mol in a virtually uncredited appearance. When her life is threatened, we get the most tense and potentially volatile situation the whole movie has to offer. But this lasts for about a minute, is then dropped, and never resolved. The movie ends with Carter presumably going to Las Vegas, but we never get to find out what was going on with the girlfriend.

Get Carter's haphazard cutting from one idea to the next is obnoxiously amplified through its wickedly awful MTV-style editing. Assuming the audience has the attention span of a two-year old on pot, every scene requires an unwelcome amount of cuts. For example, in a diner scene where Carter and his niece get to know one another, every one-lined question is followed by a one-lined response, then a fade out, fade in, repeat. And if it's not cuts, then it's strobe-like flashes, sudden fast forwards, or bursts of color saturation in a world with otherwise muted colors. While such techniques may have been met with moderate success in the horror genre of Lost Souls (both movies have the same director of photography), they are considerably less effective in an everyday reality.

Worst of all, though, is the unnecessary levels of conspiracy Get Carter indulges in. This is a movie that could have been best served by a straightforward plot, but instead, there's at least five villains to worry about, and a fair amount of misdirection and backstabbing. Also pointless is the boss of Carter's dead brother, played by Michael Caine. I can't think of a single reason this character needs to be here, except for the fact that they needed to throw a bone to Caine, the original Jack Carter in the 1971 movie.

Despite its ambitions to transcend the stereotypes of its genre, Get Carter is fraught with too many loose ends and too much lack of focus to achieve the status it seeks. I'll give it credit for trying, but that's about all I can say for it.


Rating: 5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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