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Film / Get Carter

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"You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me it's a full time job. Now behave yourself."
Jack Carter

A 1971 British crime film directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a prominent London Gangster who returns to his hometown of Newcastle, England to find out who killed his brother. The work has come to be regarded as a classic in the gangster film genre.

The film itself is a deliberate Deconstruction of the gangster film genre it has become a classic of. Caine himself was determined to avert the feel-good or comedy aspects of The Caper style gangster movie, in favour of a Darker and Edgier gritty realism, saying;

"One of the reasons I wanted to make that picture was my background. In English movies, gangsters were either stupid or funny. I wanted to show that they’re neither. Gangsters are not stupid, and they’re certainly not very funny."

The film was remade in 1972 (as Hit Man, with Bernie Casey and Pam Grier), and again as Get Carter in 2000.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: When Carter enters Cyril Kinnear's house, there is a Zulu shield and assegais on the wall. This is an in-joke about Michael Caine's first screen success in Zulu.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Carter seems genuinely amused while watching a woman beating the crap out of another woman.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the novel, Carter died from a knife thrust by Eric. In the 1971 film, Carter was instead shot by J.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • Carter's shotgun has greater significance in the book, as it symbolises family ties and Carter's memories of more innocent times hunting with his brother.
    • The book delves into the backstory involving Carter and Eric Paice, revealing that they were rival gangsters in London.
    • Albert Swift was a delinquent gang leader.
    • One particular reason why Carter hates Paice so much is his abusive treatment of his lover Anna (Audrey in the book).
  • Adaptational Karma: Kinnear's arrest isn't actually depicted in the book.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Anna was named Audrey in the book.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: In the novel, Kinnear was an uncultured spiv. In the film, he's urbane and laid-back.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Peter the Dutchman is a misogynistic homosexual in the book. These elements were not emphasised in the film, although the character is flamboyant and "camp". Interestingly, his actor, Tony Beckley, had appeared alongside Caine in The Italian Job two years previously, playing an exceedingly camp (and possibly gay) gangster called Camp Freddie.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Get Carter was based on the novel Jack's Return Home.
  • Affably Evil: Kinnear is polite and good-natured when Jack breaks into his house, allowing him to watch Kinnear play poker and be entertained by his girlfriend.
  • Anti-Hero: Carter is a cold-blooded and remorseless killing machine who would be the villain in most movies, except here he's on a mission of vengeance against other gangsters.
  • Asshole Victim: Eric Paice, Albert Swift, Margaret and Jack himself all qualify.
  • Badass Boast: Carter gives one to Brumby. See the page quote.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Carter is quite dapper. He's from the big city, after all.
  • Badass Longcoat: Carter sports a long black coat.
  • Beard of Evil: Kinnear sports one in the 1971 movie.
  • Berserk Button: Carter's gets pressed big time when he watches the porno flick and realises that one of the ladies in it is his niece (who may in fact be his daughter). This is fleshed out more in the novel.
  • Big Bad: Kinnear.
  • Big Fancy House: Kinnear lives in one. Dryderdale Hall, near Hamsterley, Bishop Auckland.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Paice and his gang are ruthless sleaze mongers and Carter is a cold-blooded sociopath. Neither could ever be described as morally good.
  • Brain Bleach: Carter accidentally discovers that his niece — who is quite possibly his daughter — was cajoled into porn, when he idly turns on a projector in the house of a local gangster's moll. As the film runs, tears well in his eyes; he takes his mind off this by embarking on an orgy of revenge.
  • The Casanova: In addition to having an affair with Anna, Jack has flings with Glenda and his landlady Edna.
  • Cat Fight: Carter is amused to see two women attacking each other.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The double-barreled shotgun that Carter held with him, although he never fires it once. Though at the end, he beats Paice to death with the stock.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: J, the assassin, turns out to be Kinnear's hitman. He himself appears earlier on in the opening scene, and later kills Carter himself at the end.
  • Cold Sniper: J, the assassin.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Carter and J share a compartment together on the opening train journey.
    • It's awfully convenient that Glenda has a copy of the porn film set up on a projector by her bed, and that she is keen for Carter to share her bed.
  • Cool Guns: In addition to his shotgun, Carter wields a SIG-P210.
  • Cool Train: The opening title sequence.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Carter finds time to weave some outstanding snark in between brutal murders.
  • Death by Adaptation: Cliff Brumby and Glenda go to the police in the novel, but are killed in the movie.
  • Death by Irony: Paice, who was responsible for Frank's death, forces a bottle of whisky down his throat before killing him in a car crash. So Carter, in retaliation, forces Paice to also drink a bottle of whisky before bludgeoning him to death.
  • Determinator: Nothing on earth will get in the way of Jack's quest for vengeance.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the novel, Eric is about to shoot the wounded Carter with his own shotgun, when it blows up in his face, killing him. In the 1971 film, Carter force-feeds him whiskey before bludgeoning him to death with the shotgun.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Albert Swift. He is the man who has sex with Doreen in the porn film and supplies the whisky that contributes to Frank Carter's death. When Jack arrives in Newcastle, Albert avoids him until Jack finally confronts him in the bookies. As such, Albert pitifully pleads for his life.
    • Peter the Dutchman also qualifies. During the gunfight on the ferry, Peter is blasting at Carter with a shotgun. However, when an unarmed Peter climbs up the ladder only to be confronted by Carter pointing his pistol at him, Peter immediately screams "don't!" at Carter. Carter of course, shoots him dead.
    • Cliff Brumby is another. Rather than go to the police with the evidence of the porn film, Brumby shows it to Frank Carter in the hope that Frank would go to the police. This ends up getting Frank killed by Kinnear's gang. Carter is quick to call Brumby out for it as he beats him to death.
  • Disney Villain Death: Cliff Brumby is killed by Jack Carter this way in the 1971 film.
  • Downer Ending: At the end of the 1971 movie, Jack himself gets killed by an assassin. Given what kind of anti-hero he is, however, this is to be expected.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Paice.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Carter forces Margaret to strip down to her underwear before murdering her and leaving her body on Kinnear's estate.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Carter is a murderer. The porn film (not tape) is a Berserk Button, possibly because it might be his own daughter who's on the porn film.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The assassin himself was credited as "J" in the end credits.
  • False Flag Operation: Jack murders Margaret with a drug overdose and dumps her in a pond near Kinnear's mansion, plants a trail of her clothes then - after blackmailing Kinnear - tips the Police that there are drugs being passed around at his party. It works.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Paice is polite to Jack when they first meet on screen, but (for reasons explained in the Trivia Tab) he's disguising his hatred quite well.
  • The Film of the Book: Adapted from British crime writer Ted Lewis' 1970 novel Jack's Return Home.
  • Force Feeding: What Carter does to Paice at the end of the 1971 film.
  • Foreshadowing: At the horse-race meeting a punter takes one look at Carter, drops the food from his mouth and makes a sharp exit. The man is later revealed to be Albert Swift, informant and 'star' of the porn film Jack's niece is in.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Carter fends off Peter and Con by threatening them with a shotgun. He then calmly drives them down a street. Whilst stark bollock naked.
  • Gayngster: Implied with Kinnear, who doesn't mind that his girlfriend entertains Carter. Also, Peter the Dutchman in the novel.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Carter is easy to become angered.
  • The Hero Dies: Carter himself at the end.
  • Hypocrite: Jack is quick to denounce Brumby's daughter as being promiscuous as he kills him and claims that Doreen "can't get away" with being in the porn film, yet Jack has no qualms in setting himself on his boss' wife and his rival mobster's girlfriend as the other man in two triangles. It's also not determined if Doreen feels that she was raped as she doesn't show that she's hiding anything from Jack throughout the film, and it's unknown if Jack confronts or consoles her about the film, as he has quite a lot of time to do so in between the gunfight on the boat and killing Margaret.
  • In Love with the Gangster's Girl: Carter is having an affair with Anna, his boss' mistress.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Played straight when Peter and Carter are shot.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: In keeping with the bleak tone of the film, it rains at Frank's funeral.
  • Karma Houdini: Con McCarty, one of the goons sent to retrieve Carter, is the only bad guy to not receive a comeuppance. He's last seen fleeing the boat shoot-out.
  • London Gangster: Carter is from Newcastle, but he moved to London to become a gangster. He now sports a Cockney accent, although this is also due to him being played by Michael Caine.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Frank was force-fed whiskey and then placed in a car so it would appear that he died drunk driving. Jack doesn't buy it was an accident for a minute.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: It's implied that Jack is Doreen's father.
    Keith: Frank said you were a shit and he was bloody well right! You even screwed his wife, didn't you! The poor bastard didn't even know if the kid was his!
  • Missing Mom: According to Jack, Doreen's mother (and possibly Frank's wife) "cleared off".
  • Ms. Fanservice: Anna, played by Britt Ekland, at one point wearing a Black Bra and Panties.
  • Mysterious Mercenary Pursuer: The assassin. He has very little dialogue with Kinnear at the near end and is distinguished only by his signet ring, inscribed with a J.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Carter brandishes a shotgun to clear his rented room of Peter and Con, who are at first amused by the fact that he does this in the nude.
    Peter: Put it away, Jack. We know you won't use it.
    Con: The gun, he means.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Paice unwittingly murders Kinnear's girlfriend Glenda by backing the car that Carter was driving into the dock while she is still locked in the trunk. It is possible that Jack informs Kinnear of this to leverage him into selling out Paice.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jack Carter's employers, the Fletcher Brothers, are clearly based on the Kray twins.
  • No Name Given: The assassin out for Carter is identified only by his signet ring, which sports a J.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Caine makes no attempt to hide his trademark Cockney dialect in spite of his character coming from Newcastle. In-Universe this is Hand Waved as showing how completely Carter's new life in London has changed him.
  • One-Book Author: Carl Howard, who played J, the sniper who kills Carter at the end. He is only identified by the initial on his ring, in his only film role, and an appropriate mystery surrounds his real identity. His name does not appear on the credits of some prints. Mike Hodges explained that Howard was an extra on his TV film, Rumour, and the director gave him a line to say, but another extra was wrongly credited. Hodges promised he would make it up to him and cast him in Carter, but his name was missed off some of the original prints. When the film credits were printed in the Radio Times and TV Times Howard was also trimmed. Hodges said in 2002 "Carl and credits don't seem destined for each other".
  • Oop North: The film is set in Newcastle, which is portrayed as a grim, crime-ridden city. Also, the famous car park scene is set in Gateshead, just across the Tyne from Newcastle.
  • Papa Wolf: Jack is seriously pissed off when he finds his niece (who may or may not actually be his daughter) was coerced into being in a porn film.
  • Professional Killer: J. He's a Cold Sniper and only has a few brief lines. He's so above the muck of the plot that we never even learn his name. He's identified only by the letter on his signet ring.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Glenda is locked in the boot of his car by Carter, while he contemplates her fate. The car is then stolen by small-time hoods he has beaten up, who get even by pushing it into the River Tyne to spite him...
  • Retirony: Jack's ultimate objective after seeking vengeance for his brother is to run away to South America with his boss's wife and his brother's daughter. This is negated much earlier than Jack's death as Paice boasts that Jack's boss has exposed the affair. It's not clear if that's the case though.
  • Revenge Before Reason: What eventually defines Carter himself.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Jack Carter investigates the suspicious death of his brother and turns his hometown into a bloodbath as he uncovers the truth.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Albert tries to do this trope by reaching the high double-gate at the end, only to find out that it's locked and tries to climb it. Carter subverts it by easily pulling him out.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Michael Caine is About to Shoot You in the film's poster.
  • The '70s: The horrible, horrible 70s.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There's a Zulu shield hung up on Kinnear's wall, a reference to Caine's starring role in the film Zulu.
    • Carter reads Farewell, My Lovely on the train. Ironically, one of the contemporary criticisms of the movie was that the murder mystery plot was too complex, the same criticism levelled at a lot of Chandler's stories.
  • Shown Their Work: Mike Hodges thoroughly researched the local Newcastle crime scene, adapting the script to make use of settings and incorporating elements of his research into the story. His background at World in Action had made him accustomed to making films based on hard investigation and this informed his approach to
  • Silent Credits: This 1970s gangster flick ends with Jack Carter himself getting shot on a remote beach by an assassin after Jack got his revenge on his brother's killer, followed by ending credits with the only sounds being the waves crashing on the shoreline.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Murdering a woman via deliberate heroin overdose has to qualify.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Carter adopts this approach when he interrogates Albert, then when he blackmails Kinnear and when he murders Margaret.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The book ends with Carter dying from a stab wound, leaving his fate ambiguous. In fact, Lewis wrote two sequel novels - Jack Carter's Law and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon. The 1971 film ends with him getting shot in the head by a sniper. The 2000 remake has Carter survive at the end after killing nearly everyone involved in his brother's murder.
  • Staggered Zoom: Onto Jack as a shootout ends with Jack getting the drop on a Mook named Peter, right before Jack shoots Peter.
  • The Stoic: Jack almost never panics even when getting shot at.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Carter returns to his home town of Newcastle to investigate the murder of his brother. Since he left, he's become a big-shot London Gangster, so his relationship with the town is quite different.
  • Television Geography: A foot chase has Carter chasing Paice from Blythe Staithes (in the county of Northumberland) onto the beach at Blackhall Rocks (in the County of Durham), a mere 35 miles farther south. The scene is the climax of the film.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The "International Trailer" on the current UK DVD shows what happens to Margaret, Paice, Peter, Brumby, and Albert.
  • The Voiceless: J himself only gets to talk one time in the movie, and he is talking with Kinnear on the phone.
  • Tranquil Fury: Carter's mood alternates between this and Hair-Trigger Temper. He kills people in either state of mind.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the 1971 film, Con McCarty (one of the goons sent to retrieve Carter) is last seen fleeing after the boat shoot-out. In the novel, he survives.
  • White Shirt of Death: Carter stabs Albert Swift, who is wearing a white sweater, which makes the resulting blood all the more shocking.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Carter is just as rough towards women as he is with men, be it slapping Margaret, or holding Glenda's head underwater.


Video Example(s):


Carter catches Albert

Albert tries to do this trope by reaching the high double-gate at the end, only to find out that it's locked and tries to climb it. Carter subverts it by easily pulling him out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / ScrewThisImOuttaHere

Media sources: