Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Sunday, August 21, 2016


In “Get Carter,” you’re essentially seeing Sylvester Stallone resigning himself to what his career was circa the year 2000. His latest bid for critical respectability, 1997’s “Cop Land,” did not work out the way he’d hoped. In a few years, he’d be starring in direct-to-video releases. Considering he’d co-headline 2001’s “Driven” with another actor, “Get Carter” would be his last leading role to get a theatrical release for quite a while. Sly would spend the next six years in the Hollywood wilderness, more punchline then superstar. A remake of a British cult classic from the seventies, “Get Carter” would flop with both critics and audiences.

Las Vegas mob enforcer Jack Carter doesn’t have many friends. He’s sleeping with his mob boss’ girlfriend but, otherwise, he’s fairly antisocial. When he receives the news that his brother is dead, he suddenly feels a responsible to his extended family. Upon returning to his childhood home town, he begins to suspect that his brother’s death was not accidental. While searching for answers, he makes enemies with the local criminal element. In order to avenge his brother’s murder, Carter uncovers a conspiracy that ties in with a local tech millionaire and some old enemies.

Narratively speaking, the remake of “Get Carter” follows the broad strokes of the original’s story. It condenses the convoluted plot of Mike Hodge’s 1971 original, clipping out a number of subplots. Yet many of the original’s elements, such as Carter’s opening car ride or his niece’s unfortunate fate, are maintained or updated. However, 2000’s “Get Carter” largely misses the point of Hodge’s original. Jack Carter’s personality is greatly softened, removing most of his moral ambiguity. He’s no longer a bad man doing bad things. Now he’s a sort of bad man doing mostly good things. The point of the ’71 original – the contrast between the deeply inglorious gangster violence with an idyllic small town setting – is wasted by placing the remake is an urban area and making the violence into standard action movie theatrics.

“Get Carter” is so clearly a product of the year 2000. The soundtrack is composed primarily of obnoxious techno music. Any time an action scene kicks in, wholly inappropriate songs will blare out of your TV's speakers. Stephen Kay’s direction is equally poor. The action scenes are filled with shaky-cam direction that induces sea sickness in viewers and annoyance in action fanatics. A car scene is especially difficult to follow, the camera spinning around spasmodically with little concern for coherence. Only a handful of Kay’s stylistic flourishes are interesting at all. Such as a scene where Sly rightfully guesses what his opponents will do next, within the cramped confines of an elevator. This was only Kay’s second film. He’d follow it up, five years later, with mall horror entry “Boogeyman” and a string of TV movies about serial killers.

As I previously mentioned, the dawn of the new millennium signaled the beginning of Sylvester’s lowest period as a star. You could see him being visibly disinterested in films like “Avenging Angelo” or “Driven.” “Get Carter” does not present the star with an especially compelling character. Jack Carter is gruff, all muscle, and single minded in his pursuit of vengeance. The few soft moments, such as when he’s conversing with his niece or his sister-in-law, allow Sly to show off his atrophied humanity, one of his best and most underrated attributes. Still, “Get Carter” is not an actor’s film. Stallone is essentially trotting out the tough guy act he utilized in a number of sub-par action flicks.

“Get Carter,” at the very least, has a loaded supporting cast. Mickey Rourke is at maximum sleaziness as the pornographer that emerges as the story’s primary villain. Alan Cumming has a decent part as an asshole tech tycoon. The part certainly calls upon his strength for being a squirmy weasel. John C. McGinley has a showy part as Carter’s eccentric partner, who quickly turns on him. Rachael Leigh Cook plays the imperiled niece. Though given little to do, Cook shines during the slower moments with Sly. Miranda Richardson, as the deceased brother’s wife, and Rhona Mitra, as a local prostitute, thanklessly go through the motions. That’s more then Gretchen Moll gets, as her only scene has her lounging in bed in lingerie. (She goes uncredited, as does Tom Sizemore as Stallone’s employer.) Lastly, Michael Caine – the original Jack Carter – appears in a few scene. It’s interesting to have such a direct contrast between Caine’s earlier days as an action star and his latter career as an avuncular character actor. Sadly, his role in the script is fairly inessential.

“Get Carter” is less outright bad then it’s just mediocre. How much you enjoy the remake seems to depend on how much you love the original. I only like, not love, Mike Hodge’s original film. Which is maybe why I’m so ambivalent to this version. Single moments are quite weak but the script is too stock parts to be offensive. Sadly, this kind of glacial mediocrity characterizes many films from this era of Stallone’s career. It would take a revisit to his two most iconic characters to give Sly’s career once last shot in the arm. [5/10]

[] Frank Stallone or Frank Stallone-esque Inspirational Music
[X] Incapacitates or Kills Someone With His Body
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Social Outcast [Anti-Social Mob Enforcer]
[X] Sweaty, Veiny Yelling

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