Get Carter (2000)

Monday, April 07, 2008

I’m not one of these annoying dickheads that claims that their childhood has been raped when a favourite film has been remade by the greedy Hollywood cash machine. I don’t cry myself to sleep at the thought of Marky Mark battling apes or Vince Vaughn dressing up as a lady. But the remake of Get Carter is just bizarre. It’s like everyone involved has agreed that the original is a fantastic film and then they’ve decided to ignore or change everything that made it great.

However, the film makes numerous attempts to ingratiate itself to fans of the original. The film opens with the wonderful Roy Budd theme tune. But then it all goes wrong. This stylish music suddenly becomes a techno abomination, a supposed sign of modernity that can only have most right-thinking individuals reaching for the nearest sharpened pencil to stab their eardrums with.

And then there’s the title sequence. In a nod to the original we see Jack Carter on a train travelling to his hometown to find out who killed his brother. But although in the original it made sense that Jack would be taking a train ride, here I can’t help but wonder why Carter just didn’t take a plane. Surely someone who has mob connections and a high income would rather fly to Seattle from Las Vegas. But no, the film wants to pay homage to the original, even though all the time it’s pissing on its head.

One of the most shocking things about this Get Carter is how toothless it is. The original is a gritty, relentlessly violent tale of retribution. This on the other hand is a limp revenge tale full of self-growth. I really wanted to vomit during the scene where Carter and his niece talk things over and help one another grow as human beings. Yes, mobsters make great self-help gurus and grief counsellors. What’s that, your father’s dead and you starred in a sleazy bit of porno? Don’t worry, Uncie Carter the murderer will make everything better. There, there child.

But one of the most unforgivable things is the casting of Alan Cumming. Sure I can never truly hate him as he was Boris in GoldenEye, but every single performance since then has been a massive shit sandwich. He’s just incapable of being anything other than a cartoon. And while that might be appropriate for X-Men or a Bond movie, it certainly doesn’t fit with a supposedly gritty crime thriller. I mean, for fuck’s sake, there’s a scene at the end when Carter is going to kill him where he’s wearing a bucket hat – one of the film’s main villains looks like Reni out of The Stone Roses. And during the scene at the end he cries like a girl, his voice becoming so high-pitched that he must have had several clipboard clips attached to his testicles. Just shoot him, I begged Stallone. But no, Carter makes this simpering fool get on his knees and then unloads a magazine beyond his head before telling the dickless moron that he’s going to give him a second chance. Fuck that. Splatter his brains all over the ground.

Compare this compassion to the original where Carter kills everyone who gets in his way. All of the people who were complicit in his brother’s death are ruthlessly despatched. Plus there’s the possibility that his brother’s daughter is in fact Carter’s daughter, as he was sleeping with his brother’s wife. So there are quite a few different levels to the story and there’s quite a bit of ambiguity. But here everything is very simple. Doreen is definitely Carter’s niece and Carter doesn’t have a sexual relationship with his brother’s wife. Carter deep down is just a decent guy trying to right a wrong. Yawn.

And because the film is far more simplistic, many of the important scenes fall flat. For instance, there’s the scene where Carter finds out that his niece was involved in a porno movie. You have jagged editing and then later you see Stallone driving his car as the camera moves upside down (his world has been turned upside down...get it?). But it has zero emotion. Compare this to the original where Carter stumbles upon a porno movie after shagging some broad. At first he enjoys it, but then when he sees that Doreen is involved, a girl who might be his daughter, his enjoyment turns to tears. You very briefly see a glimpse of humanity. But then he explodes in rage and you know everything is going to end badly.

But the remake doesn’t end badly for the characters. Apparently revenge isn’t a messy game. In fact, it makes everything okay. And then once it’s done, everyone can get on with their lives. We even see Stallone drive off into the sunset. It’s the complete antithesis of the Caine film.

Speaking of Caine, he turns up as the bad guy in this film. But I don’t know whether his taking part in this movie is an endorsement or a piss-take. I’d like to think he’s trying to show everyone how inferior this movie is, but in reality it was probably just an easy paycheque. But seeing Stallone and Caine together reminds you of how inferior Sly is. Caine’s Carter was a tough everyman, a bloke who had a mentality of a cobra. Stallone’s Carter, though, is a beefy wimp, an idiot in a shiny suit who speaks in catchphrases. A couple times he tells people he’s taking things to the next level. But unfortunately for Sly his film never gets off the ground.

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  1. the original was a shite dreary brit film that has been blown out of all proportion. I can think of countless superior revenge flicks from that era.
    And while I'm not trying to defend this very obvious b-movie remake, he takes the train because he is taking a gun with him, that was clearly established in the script.

  2. The original is a magnificent film - a dark, bleak, misanthropic film that has surprising layers of depth and complexity. The remake is the complete antithesis.

    And as regards the train, it's still a blatant attempt to try and recapture the cool of the original. Whatever else is said is just a way of trying to excuse the poor logic of it - it would be much easier for a gangster to fly out to Seattle and then get a weapon there; I doubt he'd find it hard to pick up a firearm. The sequence is just there to pay 'homage' to the original, something it does very badly.