Get Carter, not just one of the finest exponents of British neo - noir, but one of the greatest British films ever, period. Michael Caine stars as Jack Carter, a tough no nonsense operator in the London underworld who returns to his home town of Newcastle Upon Tyne when his brother turns up dead.
Directed and adapted to screenplay by Mike Hodges from Ted Lewis' novel Jack's Return Home, Get Carter is a bleakly atmospheric masterwork that takes the period setting of the time and blends harsh realism with film noir sensibilities and filters it through an uncut prism of doom.
Jack Carter as created by Caine and Hodges is the quintessential film noir anti-hero. He smokes French cigarettes and reads Raymond Chandler, there is no hiding the respect and homages to classical noir pulsing away as Jack goes on his not so merry way. He's a vengeful angel of death, but sexy as hell with it, he even has humorous pearls of wisdom to spout, delivered with relish by Caine who is at his snake eyed best.
In a strange quirk of the narrative, Jack is home but he's a fish out of water, he's a suited and booted Cockney lad moving amongst the flotsam and jetsam of North Eastern society. It's a crumbling landscape of terraced houses and coal yards, of seedy clubs and bed and breakfast establishments where, as Jack wryly observes, the beds have seen untold action.
Jack Carter is a hard bastard, borderline psychotic once his mind has tuned into the frequency that plays to him the tunes of mistrust, of double-dealings, liars and thieves, of pornographers and gangsters who thrive on gaining wealth while the society around them falls into a depression. It's Fog on the Tyne for sure here. Yet Jack is not devoid of heartfelt emotion, his family ties are strong, and there is a point in the film when Jack sheds a tear, it is then when we all know that all bets are off and there will be no coming back from this particular abyss.
Hodges and cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky strip it all back for maximum impact, so much so you can smell the salt of the murky sea, feel your lungs filling up with chimney smoke, the whiff of working class sweat is all around, and all the time Roy Budd's contemporary musical score jingles and jangles over proceedings like a dance of death waiting to reach its operatic conclusion. And with Caine backed up by a roll call of super working class character actors, Get Carter just gets better as each decade of film making passes.
Like its antagonist/protagonist (yes, Jack is both, a deliberate contradiction) it's a film as hard as nails, where home format releases should be delivered through your letterboxes in a metal case. No lover of film noir can have an excuse to have not seen it yet. Funny, sexy, brutal and not without a ticking time bomb of emotional fortitude as well, Get Carter is the "A" Bomb in Grey Street. 10/10