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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
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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. It was remade in 1972 (as Hit Man, with Bernie Casey and Pam Grier), and again in 2000 with Sylvester Stallone as the title character and Caine in a minor role, but neither version was successful.

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."
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Watching The Italian Job (1969) and then Get Carter, which Caine made back-to-back, shows the stark difference in the portrayal of gangsters in each.


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.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: The 2000 remake forces Carter into being this, a stark contrast to how the original Carter was a brutal thug who never sought redemption, but rather brutal vengeance.
  • 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.
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    • 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 Alternate Ending: In the novel, Carter died from a knife thrust by Eric. In the film, Carter was instead shot by J. However, the 2000 remake has Carter survive the entire ordeal and leave for Las Vegas after avenging his brother's death and saying goodbye to Doreen.
  • Adaptational Name Change:
    • Anna was named Audrey in the book.
    • In the 2000 remake, Carter's brother's name is changed from Frank to Ritchie, while Paice and Kinnear's respective first names are changed from Eric and Cyril to Cyrus and Jeremy, and Glenda is renamed Geraldine.
  • 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, he appeared alongside Caine in The Italian Job (1969) two years previously: then too playing an exceedingly camp and possibly gay gangster called Camp Freddie.
  • 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.
  • Badass Beard: Carter sports a goatee in the 2000 remake. He shaves it off at the end after avenging his brother's death.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: When Carter watches the porn flick...though this is fleshed out more in the novel, he's especially mad because Doreen may in fact be his daughter.
  • 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.
  • Canon Foreigner: The 2000 remake features the widow of Carter's brother.
  • Car Cushion: Brumby's death after he is beaten up by Carter. In the 2000 remake, this happens to a minor character named Eddie.
  • 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 assassin "J" share a compartment together on the opening train journey.
  • 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 1971 movie; Carter throws Cliff from a building, while Glenda is in the trunk of a car that gets pushed into the sea. Meanwhile, in the 2000 remake, Carter kills Brumby by shooting him in the back in a car park for trying to steal a video disc.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Disney Villain Death: Cliff Brumby was killed by Jack Carter this way.
  • Downer Ending: At the end, 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Carter is a murderer. The porn tape is a Berserk Button, possibly because it might be his own daughter who's on the porn tape.
  • 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.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "Christ, I didn't kill him!" Albert Swift
    • "Don't! Don't!" Peter the Dutchman
    • "I didn't think they'd do it." Cliff Brumby
    • "Still got your sense of humor..." Eric Paice
    • "Goodbye Eric!" Jack Carter
  • 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.
  • Foreign Remake: Both Hit Man (1972) and Get Carter (2000) move the story to an American setting.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 McCarthy, one of the goons sent to retrieve Carter, is the only bad guy in the 1971 film to not receive a comeuppance. He's last seen fleeing the boat shoot-out. In the 2000 remake, Con dies in a car chase.
  • London Gangster: Carter is from Newcastle, but he moved to London to become a gangster. He now sports a Cockney accent.
  • 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 brandishing a shotgun to clear his rented room of mobsters.
  • 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. This shows how completely Carter's new life in London has changed him.
  • Not on the List: Jack punches a bouncer who says he's isn't in the list.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The 2000 remake ends on this note with Carter driving back to Las Vegas after avenging his brother's death.
  • 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 pissed when he finds his niece was coerced into being in a porn film.
  • Professional Killer: "J". He's a Cold Sniper and never heard speaking. 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...
  • Rare Guns: Carter uses a SIG P210 as his sidearm.
  • Revenge Before Reason: What eventually defines Carter himself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Michael Caine is About to Shoot You in the film's poster.
  • The '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.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Paice is left brutally beaten but still alive by Carter in the 2000 remake.
  • 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.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Peter the Dutchman and Con McCarthy, the goons sent to bring Carter back to London.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The "International Trailer" on the current UK DVD shows what happens to Margaret, Paice, Peter, Brumby, and Albert.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film feels at times like a deconstruction of the Brit gangster flick that emerged in the late 90's due to directors like Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn. The villains are shown as ruthless and incredibly sleazy, the killings are done in a very matter-of-fact manner with little blood and no dramatic tricks, it's set in bleak Newcastle rather than London, there is a complete absence of any pop soundtrack (apart from arbitrary karaoke songs) or any form of music and the lead character is cold-hearted and utterly ruthless, not shown as any better than the men he kills. Were it made today, it would almost certainly be a Genre Deconstruction. Yet it was made in 1971, long before British Gangster films became big.
  • The Voiceless: J himself only gets to talk one time in the movie, and he is talking with Kinnear on the phone.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the 1971 film, Con McCarthy (one of the goons sent to retrieve Carter) is last seen fleeing after the boat shoot-out.
  • 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.

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