When his brother dies under mysterious circumstances in a car accident, London gangster Jack Carter travels to Newcastle to investigate.
Get Carter was intended to be very violent. Michael Caine recently remarked, "It looks like Mary Poppins now." But it doesn't. In fact, it's surprising how hard-hitting and brutal Get Carter still is, even in these desensitised times.
London hitman Jack Carter (Caine) revisits his Newcastle upon Tyne birthplace after the mysterious death of his brother Frank. He enters a seedy world of porn, corruption and murder, eventually joining the dots between "Mr. Big" Cyril Kinnear (Osborne), slot-machine magnate Cliff Brumby (Bryan Mosley) and scumbag chauffeur Eric Paice (Ian Hendry). Though warned off, Carter connives and strong-arms his way to the awful truth.
Adapted from the novel Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis (interestingly, set in an unnamed steel town), Get Carter can be viewed as a pale, drizzly imitation of Raymond Chandler - director Hodges even throws in a copy of Farewell My Lovely to head off facile comparisons - but in its desperately grim north-eastern setting and the casual stylishness of its cruelty, it creates a semi-mythic world all of its own. Though Caine exudes cool (only really losing his composure during the coal-cart climax), his heartlessness and contempt for women are never neatly redeemed.
This is a gangster film without the laughs of Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, the pop of Pulp Fiction or the theatre of The Godfather - a landmark British thriller that deserves more than just kitsch appreciation for having Corrie's Alf Roberts and one always-misquoted famous line in it. It's violent without buckets of blood, sexy without being explicit, and contains a revelatory sequence with a film projector that trumps 8mm. "Clever sod, aren't you?" says one lowlife to Carter. "Only comparatively," he replies.
Possibly Caine's finest hour in one of the grittiest, most suspense-filled crime dramas of all time.