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GET CARTER

by: James Berardinelli

Having seen this train wreck of a film, I'm tempted to say "Get Away Carter!" A reworking of the 1971 classic directed by Michael Hodges (who is big again this year thanks to the unexpected success of Croupier), this film enforces a common belief that remakes aren't just unnecessary - they're pernicious. Of course, comparing the new Get Carter to the original is sort of like comparing apples and oranges - provided that the apples are rotten to the core.

One generally attends a Sylvester Stallone film with the hope of imbibing a testosterone-and-adrenaline cocktail. A typical Stallone outing consists of the hero richocheting from one action scene to the next with as little plausible connecting material as possible in between. Stallone is, after all, primarily an action icon, not a dramatic actor. (To be fair, in films like Rocky, he has shown some range.) So it comes as something of an unpleasant surprise to find that there's very little action to be found bookended between Get Carter's opening and closing credits. In fact, with the exception of a perfunctory car chase and a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-them fight scenes, the entire first hour is all exposition, dialogue, and so-called character building. The pacing and energy level are as dead as Stallone's eyes behind his ultra-cool sunglasses. There's more going on in the final 30 minutes, but it's all largely incoherent and directed like a music video on speed.

Get Carter is a revenge thriller in the tradition of Point Blank (which was remade with Mel Gibson as Payback), The Limey, and Death Wish. Jack Carter (Stallone) has come home to Seattle from Vegas, where he works as a gangster's enforcer, for his brother's funeral. Although the younger Carter's death was ruled to be a drunk driving accident, Jack doesn't buy it. He thinks someone took his brother out, and he's determined to find out the bad guy's identity. There are a few candidates: slimy millionaire computer geek Jeremy Kinnear (Alan Cumming), Internet porn sleaze Cyrus Paice (Mickey Roarke, perfectly cast), and ingratiating hotel operator Cliff Bumby (Michael Caine, the original Jack Carter). Jack's sister-in-law, Gloria (Miranda Richardson), is less than pleased to see him, although the same can't be said of her daughter, Doreen (Rachael Leigh Cook), who bonds almost instantly with her tough guy uncle. Eventually, after being distracted by an unnecessary subplot about goings-on in Vegas, Jack unravels the cover-up and starts proving that revenge is a dish best served cold.

One of the many things missing from this version of Get Carter (aside from the taut pacing that characterized the original) is the subtext. Set in Newcastle, the 1971 film developed Jack as a man at odds with his place and time. He saw himself as an avenging angel, when, in reality, he was just a brute with a cause. The world around him was changing, but Jack was inflexible - a relic of the old ways. None of that is evident here. Jack is just another guy with a gun in a city where there don't seem to be any police.

The director is Stephen T. Kay, who admittedly does a good job developing a cold, brittle atmosphere. Rainy Seattle comes across as one of the most bleak and inhospitable places on Earth. Unfortunately, Kay has fallen victim to the all-too-common belief that lots of quick cuts, strange shots, and quirky camera movements can compensate for a deficient script. The final third of Get Carter is oversaturated with unnecessary "stylish" flourishes that reduce the storyline to a confused muddle. For example, we're not sure whether a key bad guy is killed or not, and there are so many unresolved plot threads at the end that someone must have been contemplating a sequel. Plus, when it comes to action, Kay is out of his depth. The fight scenes are not well filmed and the two car chases are obligatory. From start

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