Released in 1971 (the same year Straw Dogs
and A Clockwork Orange
hit the screens, which must make 71 the annus mirabilis
for violent films set in Britain), Get Carter
opens with gangsters leering over pornographic slides and ends on a filthy, slag-stained beach in Newcastle. It's a low-down and dirty movie from beginning to end, and possibly the grittiest and best film of its kind to come out of Britain. The granddaddy of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
and all its ilk, director Mike Hodges' Get Carter
offers revenge tragedy swinging-60s style, all nicotine-stained cinematography, shabby locations and the kind of killer catchphrases Vinnie Jones would die for ("You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me, it's a full-time job. Now behave yourself", says Michael Caine's deadpan anti-hero Carter before inflicting a few choice punches on Brian Mosley, aka Coronation Street
's Alf Roberts, to name but one example from Hodges and Ted Lewis' exquisitely laconic script).
Presenting the dark horse in his family of loveable Cockney geezer roles (Alfie, The Italian Job), Michael Caine plays the title role of Jack Carter, a man so hard he barely registers a flicker of regret watching a woman he's just had sex with plunge to her death. After taking the train up to Newcastle as the credits roll and Roy Budd's chunky bass-heavy theme tune plays, Carter returns to his hometown to attend his brother's funeral and investigate the circumstances of his death. Not that he's all that sentimental about family: he shaves nonchalantly over the open coffin, and shows affection to his niece Doreen (Petra Markham) by cramming a few notes in her hand and telling her to "be good and don't trust boys". Gradually, Carter unravels the skein of drugs, pornography and corruption tangled around his brother's death, which brings him up against supremely oleaginous kingpin Kinnear (played by the author of Look Back in Anger John Osborne) among others. A remake starring Sylvester Stallone is in the offing, but quite frankly it will be a 30-degree (Celsius) Christmas night in Newcastle before Hollywood could ever make something as assured, raw and immortal as this. --Leslie Felperin
Acclaimed 1970s British thriller starring Michael Caine as a hardened gangster returning to his hometown in search of the truth behind his brother's death. Though originally from Newcastle, Jack Carter (Caine) has made his name in London as a tough enforcer for the crime boss, Gerald Fletcher (Terence Rigby). On hearing of his brother's death, Carter returns to Newcastle for his funeral and to investigate his suspicion that his sibling may have been murdered. After visiting local gangster Cyril Kinnear (John Osborne), Carter is threatened and advised to head back to London. Jack refuses and descends further and further into the city's underworld as his investigations begin to pay off. His search is merciless, unrelenting and fraught with danger and it becomes clear that he will stop at nothing to exact his own brand of justice.