Never in the most deranged parts of my mind would I ever have imagined that Sylvester Stallone would be involved in the same film as Michael Caine, but in the 2000 film Get Carter that is just what we get. This film, directed by Stephen Kay, is based on a book by Ted Lewis called Jack’s Return Home and a remake of the 1971 film of the same name. Not having read the novel or seen the original, I went into watching the film with a total open mind, not expecting the film to meet any preset requirements that I had arranged in my mind. From the very beginning of the film I got overwhelming feeling that I was going to be highly under impressed because of the other recent film choices that Stallone has been making, but I was wrong.
The story of the film revolves around Jack Carter (Sylvester Stallone) returning home from being the major muscle for some sort of mob or casino in Las Vegas to find out about the exact nature of his brother’s death. The details of his job are never truly revealed. The only hint that we get about his job is at the very beginning of the film when he is beating up someone alongside his co-worker, Con McCarty, played by John C. McGinley, who throughout the entire film came off as the exact same character as Dr. Cox from Scrubs. Also, this secondary plot seems to serve no purpose but to hype up the action throughout the film. We never really care when we find out that Carter’s lover, Audrey (Gretchen Mol) will no longer have anything to do with him but will rather stay with her boyfriend named Fletcher (Garwin Sanford) who is Jack’s boss. Because there is little to no focus on Jack dealing with his job and the life he lives in Las Vegas, we don’t really break down and cry over the fact that he is losing his job, his friendship with Con, and his lover. All we really want to see dealt with is how he is going to find out who killed his brother and what he will do when he does.
The only form of sympathy that we see from Jack Carter is when he is around his niece, Doreen who is played by Rachael Leigh Cook. He feels that he must serve as the father figure now that his brother is dead. I’m not going to go into the twists and turns of the film and reveal the entire plot for you but in shear terms of story, the film is great. The problem comes in when we start talking about the technical aspects of the actors as storytellers. This film is very strange because we get two extreme opposites when speaking of acting ability. There are great actors like Michael Caine, who plays a very important character even though he does not get very much screen time, as well as Mickey Rourke, who becomes an eerily great bad guy who disgusts you at the same time. Then we have Stallone who should have retired years ago from the movie business and Rachael Leigh Cook who should stick to movies that don’t have the adult feel that this one does. Cook simply feels miscast in this film, although I understand where she is coming from in terms of her acting. Another positive note to the acting in this film comes from Alan Cumming who plays an extremely wealthy yet very young business mogul. Personally, I have always enjoyed the talents that Cumming has and this film is another instance that I can tack up on my mental cork board.
The best aspect of the film is the cinematography, the entire movie is given a dark tint that makes you feel like it just got finished raining. This is appropriate considering the film is set in Seattle and revolves around some very dark subject matter, so it does not feel unnecessary. Also, there are some shots that stuck into my mind once the credits began to roll. By far the very best part of the entire process of watching this mediocre film was the car chase in which Carter is running from Con who is there to bring Jack back whether he wants to or not. It is nowhere near the same level of great car chases like in The French Connection or Ronin, but what makes it the best part of the film is the audacity to use the camera in a different manner than other chase sequences. The most memorable shot is near the end of the chase when the camera follows Carter’s vehicle by remaining in one place and basically doing a back flip to follow it. Now I am aware that this has been done before and will be done again but what it makes this so great is that it is a physical representation of how Carter’s world is now completely upside down from how it was before this chase. This is the shot that makes the viewer realize how screwed up this character is now and how sucky this situation really is.
One of the aspects that keep this movie from becoming great apart from the acting is the music. The film was filled with what seemed like truly horrible rave music that was purely arranged to give the audience a headache. I’m not sure what was going through the director’s head when he heard those sounds that made him decide to go with it, but it was a terrible mistake.
Stephen Kay’s directing seems to be amateurish but also has instances that are original and interesting and keeps the viewers in their seats. I particularly enjoyed a segment in which Carter throws someone off of a building but we never actually see him push the person off the edge. All we get to see is Carter pushing him around and scaring the hell out of him then there is a cut to Carter walking out of the building onto the street and we see the top of a car caved in with the person laying dead in the middle of the carnage. Kay doesn’t give us the violence directly but instead lets us have only what we need to allow the story to progress.
In all, the film has whispers of greatness but ultimately fails to live up to its potential echoing the ability of the director. This only proves that great directors can only make great movies. Kay has talent but doesn’t seem sure of how to use it with confidence and doesn’t know where his niche is in the film industry. I would suggest watching this film if you are interested in seeing how to use a camera but not for examples of great acting.