When a re-make of a film appears, a reviewer needs to ask whether they should really be seeing the original as well. This movie didn’t pose that problem for this reviewer: if the 1971 British gangster original thriller is anything like the remake, there’s no way she’s ever going anywhere near it.
Sylvester Stallone is Jack Carter, and after a five-year absence working as a mob enforcer in Las Vegas, he’s back in Seattle wearing a very silly suit and tie for his younger brother’s funeral in the rain. It seems that, despite the absence, Carter is the only one who is intuitively suspicious about the circumstances of Ritchie’s drink-driving demise – besides Doreen (Raechel Leigh Cook), Ritchie’s daughter, who gives him the only real hint that something might be astray: "He didn’t drink and drive!" Gasp!
So Carter goes to visit a few people. Cliff Brumby, the affable club-owner his brother worked for, is played by Michael Caine, who played the original Carter. Cute but pointless casting, really. Brumby doesn’t think anything was up with Ritchie – although he was having an affair with hooker Geraldine, who just happens to be an acquaintance of Cyrus Paice (Mickey Rourke). Paice is an old "friend" of Carter’s, but their background is as sketchy as the rest of the film.
Paice is dressed even more laughably than Carter – would someone tell Hollywood directors what hip means, please? – but nobody’s making comments to his face. If they did, he would probably have a tough time working out who said what – sunglasses in the dark can be difficult like that. Paice is supposed to be kind of bad-guy groovy, unlike Carter, who’s dress sense is supposed to indicate in some way that he is a bit behind the times here now. Paice has moved on from their real brawn days and is a sleazy "businessman" into Internet porn deals.
Carter just happens to follow Paice and Geraldine to a private golf club, where in another odd scene, he confronts Jeremy (Alan Cumming), a mega-rich effeminate computer geek who somehow fits into the porn deal but is afraid of being caught. He has the gift of the gab, but is of course a bit of coward when it comes to guns – stereotype alert.
The cycle of making house calls and perfunctorily roughing people up continues in a subdued blur that one can presume is director Stephen T. Kay’s understanding of what MTV-watchers are supposed to like. Yet despite the editing tricks and the violence, there’s even less action than decent plot and dialogue in this film – look out for the car chase scenes, as they’re not just good opportunities to take quick naps, they actually encourage them.
In between the biffo and the grunts, Carter tries to establish a caring relationship with Doreen, who warms to his tough-guy, hammocks-under-the-eyes exterior during an interminable scene at a diner where she slurps numerous cups of coffee. So it’s no surprise that in the end it’s Doreen as well as his brother’s memory that Carter is trying to protect.
But just how he ends up helping is unclear. Who were the real baddies? All of the dead guys? Carter will be on the run for the rest of his life, so at least he’ll have time to think about it. You shouldn’t waste yours being baffled in the first place.