2000, R, 104 min. Directed by Stephen Kay. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Miranda Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Alan Cumming, Mickey Rourke, Michael Caine, John C. McGinley.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 13, 2000
It's far too easy to poke fun at Sylvester Stallone, the man behind Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Tango & Cash, and again, too easy to forget the Stallone of Rocky and Cop Land. Kay's remake of Mike Hodge's 1971 actioner has a breezy, throwaway feel -- it's like a late-Eighties Stallone vehicle in every department except Stallone himself, who turns in a gravelly, nuanced performance full of hangdog pathos and killer-with-a-heart panache. Alas, the film itself is a muddle, all rapid-fire step-edits and grainy, blue-filtered hokum. And poor Michael Caine, the star of Hodge's original, is reduced to playing a backdrop shadow of his former semi-greatness. What is good about this tale of a Vegas enforcer on the cold trail of his long-lost brother's killers is Stallone … but only just. The script, a mishmash of sloppily edited (but no less invigorating) car chases through the rain-slicked Seattle streets, and a confusing, jumbled backstory that involves a purloined CD-ROM and Mickey Rourke as an online porn king (not the stretch you were perhaps hoping for), is less than stellar. Kay works hard to capture the gritty gray gloom of Seattle, though. If the real Seattle were anything like the lachrymose hellhole depicted here it's no wonder grunge combusted as soon as it did. In Get Carter, the city and the film surrounding it radiate a viscous, rain-swept chill that is less atmospheric than simply depressing. It's meant to mirror the ravaged mindset of Jack Carter (Stallone), I suppose, but if that's really the case it's a wonder he even gets out of bed. Richardson, a terrific actor in just about anything else you can name, is underutilized here as the wife of Carter's dead brother. She keeps asking him -- indeed it's the central question in the film -- why are you here? There's no real answer forthcoming, no matter who pops the query. “I don't know where you fit in,” she says. “Maybe I don't,” he answers. Fade out. Come again? For all its attempted Le Samourai existentialism, Get Carter operates best when it operates least. Case in point is Alan Cumming's wacky (there's no other word for it) performance as a young, fey, utterly over-the-top (“I have more money than God!”) software magnate given to whiny histrionics. Cumming, a Brit with huge, caterpillar eyebrows that convey more than most actors' entire bodies, was smashingly, giddily creepy as Saturninus in Titus. Here, when he shrieks “Please don't kill me Mr. Carter!” he sounds like no one so much as Arnold Horshack. It's a great, though I suspect unintended, evocation. Now there's a thought: Gabe Kaplan as a crazed vigilante enforcer on the trail of, oh, I don't know, a psychotic John Travolta? Somebody call John Woo.