Regarded as one of the best British gangster films of all time, Get Carter came at the time in Michael Caine’s career in which he had already started his ascent to becoming one of the most iconic British actors of all time. With one Oscar nomination already under his belt for Alfie (1966) and having starred in critical and commercial hits such as Zulu (1964) and The Italian Job (1969), Caine was the perfect candidate to play the titular Jack Carter. The film sees Carter, a London based crook, head home to Newcastle to figure out who killed his brother, much to the chagrin of those who’d done the deed. A simple enough premise, but one that gets muddied when Carter stumbles upon a pornographic film featuring his beloved niece, Doreen, and Carter’s revenge plot begins.
Get Carter, like many gangster movies before and after, is a mostly fun experience for an audience. There’s a generous sprinkling of dry British humour, and some spoonfuls of the brutal killings that gangster films are known for, but there’s also a hefty dollop of ‘good old fashioned sexism’ thrown in for good measure, and this is what makes the film hardest to watch. It’s tough seeing an actor as beloved as Michael Caine treat women with such reckless abandon that even Tony Montana would wince, and while this may not have been as big of a deal for audiences in 1971, it certainly makes the film harder to watch in 2016. Not to say that Get Carter isn’t a beautifully shot, raw, gritty gangster film – it is all that and more – it’s just as if the film tries so hard to make the female characters (who are infinitely more interesting than many of the men) mere pawns in Jack Carter’s story, rather than giving them any payoff for themselves.
If you’re a fan of Michael Caine or British cinema then this film is still a must-watch, but if you are expecting a classic from 45 years ago to have aged gracefully and maintain its shine – you might be sorely disappointed.
The Podfather Score: 6/10