1971's "Get Carter", a revenge thriller that starred a very young Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules"), is considered by many to be a cult classic. Director Mike Hodges (who recently directed "Croupier") took Ted Lewis' novel "Jack's Return Home" and created a gritty crime-drama set in the industrial wastelands of England. Caine's Jack Carter was the ultimate anti-hero, a hardened career criminal who returns home to investigate the death of his brother. Though Jack's intentions were honorable, his methods were consistent with the harsh environment that had molded him, and he pursued his prey with a twisted sense of right and wrong, putting little thought to the possible consequences of his actions, no matter how disastrous.
Now, nearly three decades later, "Get Carter" has become yet another attempt to revive Sly Stallone's faded movie career. It should come as no surprise that with the director of "The Mod Squad" (Stephen T. Kay) at the helm, the 2000 version of "Get Carter" is a dry, over-edited, and completely unnecessary remake that pales in comparison to the original.
Jack Carter (Stallone), a 'bill collector' for Las Vegas-based gangsters, is summoned back home to Seattle when his younger brother dies from a drunk-driving accident. However, after speaking with his niece Doreen (Rachael Leigh Cook of "She's All That"), Jack develops suspicions that his brother's death was no accident, and begins digging around his brother's old haunts to find the culprit. The investigation turns up a number of possible bad guys, including kingpin Cyrus Paice (Mickey Rourke of "Buffalo '66"), dot.com entrepreneur Jeremy Kinnear (Alan Cumming, the desk clerk in "Eyes Wide Shut"), and bar owner Cliff Bumby (played by the original Jack Carter, Michael Caine).
Unfortunately, Jack's impromptu investigation doesn't sit well with anyone. In addition to the aforementioned suspects, who would rather Jack mind his own business, Jack's sister-in-law Gloria (Miranda Richardson, heard recently in "Chicken Run") is worried about his propensity to attract violence (especially into her own household). Meanwhile, Jack's business partner (John C. McGinley of "Any Given Sunday") shows up in Seattle to take him back to work in Vegas, kicking and screaming if necessary.
Stallone fans and action aficionados expecting plenty of pyrotechnics and fisticuffs will certainly be disappointed by David McKenna's ("American History X") talky and lethargic script. Jack spends most of the running-time posturing and uttering banal dialogue as he weaves his way through the Seattle underworld, with the occasional thirty-second fight sequence or uninspired car chase. Even for drama purists, the exposition and writing leave much to be desired, as there is little depth, subtext, or emotion to the proceedings, which is further hampered by Stallone's limited range.
With hardly any drama or action to work with, director McKenna ends up throwing in every trick in the book to at least make "Get Carter" look more interesting than it actually is, just as Joe Charbanic did with "The Watcher", and Stephan Elliott did with "Eye of the Beholder". With random jump cuts, odd camera angles, pointless musical montages, and strange visual effects, the visual flourishes used in "Get Carter" are more distracting than helpful, as they have absolutely no impact on the film's already deficient story-telling and even muddle up the already meager action sequences.
Like "Daylight" and "Cop Land", it seems that "Get Carter" is yet another abortive attempt by Sly Stallone to return to his halcyon days of box office domination during the Eighties and very early Nineties. With flat pacing, an uninteresting script, and some distracting directing, this is a film that will probably please no one. If you want to "Get Carter", you're probably better off getting the original 1971 film, widely available on video and DVD, which had the benefit of a better actor, a better script, and a better director.