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At the Movies: ‘Get Carter’

October 10, 2000 GMT

The credits for Sylvester Stallone’s new movie ``Get Carter″ list three producers, three co-producers, six executive producers and one associate producer. What do these high-paid people do? Who’s minding the store? How does a numbing mishmash of a movie like this get made?

This is the third time around for ``Get Carter.″ Adapted from Ted Lewis’ novel ``Jack’s Return Home,″ it first resulted in a smart, tough 1970 British melodrama directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine. Two years later it was converted to a blaxploitation film, ``Hit Man,″ with Bernie Casey and Pamela Grier.


The latest version opens with Stallone beating up a helpless man who failed to pay off his debt to a Vegas casino. He is a hired enforcer, though he prefers to call himself a ``financial adjuster.″ He tells his victim: ``My name is Jack Carter, and you don’t want to know me.″

By the end of the movie, the audience doesn’t want to know him either, though he is on the screen most of the time. He might as well be the Man with No Name, who bursts in and out of people’s lives, often leaving them disabled.

Carter has a mission. His brother, whom he hasn’t seen in five years, has died in a Seattle car accident, reportedly having driven drunk. Carter needs to know more, so he leaves Las Vegas for Seattle, where most of the action takes place (though of course, because of money matters, the movie was shot in Vancouver). He travels by train, since his hardware wouldn’t pass preflight inspection.

Arriving in Seattle (Vancouver), Carter attends his brother’s funeral and is rebuffed by the widow (Miranda Richardson) for his long neglect. His niece (Rachel Leigh Cooke) is not much help either. He starts sniffing around the city and encounters an underworld type and old acquaintance (Mickey Rourke), who has entered the Internet world with a virtual porno dot-com.

Carter also meets up with Michael Caine, playing the owner of the nightclub that the dead man managed. And keeping up with modern-day Seattle, Carter finds a computer billionaire (Alan Cumming) with some kinky pastimes.

All of this might have made for passable melodrama if the plot had been presented in an understandable manner. But David McKenna’s script seems like an unconnected series of vignettes, and the dialogue is standard tough-guy with abundant expletives.

Much of the film’s failure must be attributed to the director, Stephen Kay, whose only other feature was the forgettable ``The Last Time I Committed Suicide.″ Like many new directors, he seems determined to put his directorial imprint on the film. The result is quick cuts, slow motion, white flashes and other techniques long ago discarded. The excitement of two lengthy car chases is deadened by split-second editing, close-ups and other distractions.

Stallone has been a long time gone from the screen, and ``Get Carter″ is no way to get back in the flow. With a trimmed goatee, dark glasses and classy suits, he makes an impressive presence, as always. Happily, he has three more projects in the works, so maybe one will connect.

Two standouts in the cast: Rachel Leigh Cooke as the mixed-up niece; Alan Cumming, one of Britain’s most delicious villains. Caine has four brief but telling scenes. His paycheck for two days’ work was probably more than the budget for the first ``Get Carter.″

Footnote: Since Warner Bros. wisely decided not to show the film to reviewers, it was caught at a neighborhood theater in the Tarzana section of Los Angeles. Of the six trailers before the feature, three starred Robert De Niro. Doesn’t this guy ever stop?

The platoon of producers was headed by Mark Canton, Elie Samaha and Neil Canton. Rated R for language, beatings, shootings, drug use and sexual scenes. Running time: 112 minutes.


Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G_General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG_Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13_Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R_Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17_No one under 17 admitted