The Friday Afternoon Movie: Get Carter

Memorial Day is almost upon us in the States, and we here at The FAM have chosen to begin our long weekend with sex, drugs, and violence, as is our wont. Today we present 1971’s Get Carter, directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine; quite possibly one of the greatest gangster movies of all time, British or otherwise. Based on the novel Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis — which took its inspiration from the “one-armed bandit murder” in the north east of England in 1967 — it tells the story of one Jack Carter as he weaves his way through Newcastle’s seedy underworld in search of the truth of his brother Frank’s death, supposedly due to a drunk driving accident. In his wake he leaves a trail of bodies and a river of blood.

There is an image of Michael Caine for many people, greatly influenced by The Cider House Rules and his role as Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, of a kindly, wise, and lovable older man with a cockney accent. For this audience Caine will be almost unrecognizable here. His Jack Carter is a ruthless man; death in a well-tailored suit. Carter’s rampage through Tyneside is relentlessly brutal culminating on a lonely, gray beach and ends on a note that takes the viewer completely by surprise, though the more astute will recognize the players from an exceedingly brief appearance at the very beginning of the film.

Get Carter is a highlight in a storied career and it remains one of my favorite movies. To be sure Caine has played many memorable characters besides Jack Carter, but few have had that kind of presence on screen. It’s a role almost completely devoid of pathos. Jack Carter is out for revenge, and he really doesn’t care how you or anyone else feels about it. All that’s certain is that he’ll get it, one way or another.

9 Responses to “The Friday Afternoon Movie: Get Carter”

  1. Ben Blench Says:

    Get Carter to the phone!
    Don’t teach him how to cook,
    That’d kill him!

    Without it she is great.
    A little underweight, but
    Still appealing

    Everywhere I look is a darkness
    Everywhere I look is a darkness
    Everywhere I look is a darkness
    Everywhere I look is a darkness
    Everywhere I look is a darkness, darkness

  2. wchambliss Says:

    Best line in the film: “Go get yourself a course in karate.”

  3. Pete Says:

    I lived in Newcastle for a long time, and Get Carter is still a big influence on the way the town views itself. The car park featured in the film has been out of use for over a decade, is full of nasty materials, and butt-ugly, but it still took a lot of arguing to get it condemned.

  4. Cjrpos Says:

    Thank you.

  5. Will Ellwood Says:

    Well that explains why you were asking questions about Newcastle earlier.

    This is a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen.

  6. Miss Spite Says:

    The lovable cockney thing makes me uncomfortable. Michael Caine was always like the baddest ass ever.

  7. Dave C Says:

    One of the greatest British films ever made, with one of the greatest soundtracks, too. My only quibble is – why didn’t Carter have a geordie accent? Just remember to avoid the Stallone remake like the plague…

  8. Nadya Says:

    I love a good revenge thriller!! Thank you for posting this. I had a couple of moments of genuine dread. “WHAT is he about to DO?!” The dialogue, the suits, the pacing, the soundtrack, Carter’s dry one-liners, it was all great. Loved the hotel room’s “What would Jesus Say?” sign. I loved the moments of farce, like Brumby breaking up his teenage daughter’s party, and the utterly confused look on those kids’ faces in the parade after Carter emerges from the hotel naked with a rifle. All great scenes.

    This film is not very kind to women. Watching it made me think back the discussion on your wonderful post, “Are You Somebody’s Daughter?” I’d actually love to see a remake of this film… from Doreen’s point of view. Not saying it would be a happier story, but there’s a lot of interesting things you could do with it.

  9. PJ Says:

    Hi Dave C,

    It’s because Carter’s from London! The whole film plays on the London vs The North thing very hard (to a British viewpoint, not sure how well it translates). It’s not just the accent, it’s in everything down to the beer!

    Man, Carter’s a rough tough bad bwoy of a film. One of my favourites ever. I think Stallone still has Salman Rushdie status here for the remake.