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Get Carter   D+

Warner Bros. Pictures

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Stephen Kay
Writer: David McKeena
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Miranda Richardson, Rachel Leigh Cook, Mickey Rourke, Alan Cumming, Michael Caine.

Review by Rob Vaux

It's been far too long since the screen was graced with a truly great Bad Stallone Movie. Fifteen years ago, with the Rocky and Rambo franchises in full swing, Bad Stallone Movies roamed untamed through the multiplexes. But in the last decade or so they have become an endangered species. Stallone's übermensch Alpha Males have been replaced by sensitive New-Agey action heroes. His tough guys with a heart have vanished in the face of ass-kicking Laura Croft clones. It was a dark day for cheese fans everywhere when his last film made him second banana to Woody Allen. But just when things looked their worst, along comes Get Carter...and the Bad Stallone Movie lives again.

The pleasures of a Bad Stallone Movie are guilty to be sure. They drip with irresistible sleaze, wallowing in pretensions they clearly don't have the chops to reach. Most involve Stallone's genuine efforts to bring character and emotion to proceedings, yet can't avoid the gratuitous action scenes that undermine his nobler efforts. Get Carter is no exception. His title character -- a Vegas hit-man-on-a-mission who returns home to investigate his brother's death -- has the beginnings of real development, but ultimately eschews it in favor of the usual death-and-beatings that we've come to expect. Carter has problems, and his brother's death prompts meaningful reflection on the waste of his life. But just when we think a real character might be emerging, Get Carter gleefully embraces the most tawdry aspects of its would-be drama. Watch Stallone pummel people who displease him! Hear him mumble dialogue like "Give me a name or you're history!" Marvel as he trades homoerotic sneers with Mickey Rourke (Mickey Rourke!!! Playing a PIMP!!!). It's the aspirations to quality that make the lower-echelon sleaze amusing, for this film truly has its heart in the trash. Seeing the veneer of class struggling to rise from B-grade exploitation pulp gives Get Carter an extra-special little thrill that Bad Stallone Movie fans relish.

Based on a (better) English film, Get Carter also co-stars several slumming British actors (including Miranda Richardson, who should know better, and Michael Caine, who starred in the original) which increases its "classy garbage" sheen. Stephan Kay's throwback directing -- combining the French New Wave with early 70s drive-in fare -- adds distracting flourishes to the routine car chases and fist fights, which almost makes us forget how banal they really are.

There are a few moments of genuine drama in Get Carter, and Stallone should be credited for making the most of them. He brings some genuine pathos to his role amid the tough guy one-liners, and has some legitimately touching scenes with Rachel Leigh Cook, who plays his troubled niece. Stallone will never be mistaken for a master thespian, but he's better than many give him credit for. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your mindframe), these brief moments never transcend the juicy compost surrounding them, and their quality only highlights the film's hopelessly trashy core.

Flipside's grading system is a little deceptive here: I can't in good conscience give Get Carter a passing grade, but as a Bad Stallone Movie, it has its share of cheesy joys. It's hard picking on the big lug sometimes, because he means so well and he really is trying. I have a reasonably high opinion of some of his latter-day efforts such as Demolition Man and Daylight, which either lovingly embrace their sleaziness or satirically transcend it. Get Carter ultimately lacks the courage of its convictions: it can't stand to be thought of as the pulp it so clearly is. That's the twist that makes Bad Stallone Movies so perversely enjoyable, and what grants this latest effort a solid place among them. For 95% percent of you, Get Carter isn't worth the celluloid it's printed on. For the rest (and you know who you are), the time for rejoicing is at hand.

Review published 10.14.2000.

* * *

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