Before Jack Carter (Michael Caine) swaggered around the north brandishing a shotgun with his tackle hanging out. There had been another! Michael Marler (Nicol Williamson) preceded the London bad boy as the returning prodigal son. Both had family deaths to revenge and women to bed. Jack speeds around in his humble Ford Cortina in Newcastle upon Tyne whilst Michael rockets to Liverpool in his posh Jaguar. Jack was a gangster. Michael is a cutthroat businessman. Both had payback on their minds.
They sounds very similar but apart from the same unmanageable hair and a certain black jacket, that is really where the comparison ends. Get Carter is a punchy fast paced revenge story following Jack terrorising his way to find those responsible for his brother death. Fueled like an avenging grim reaper as he bashes his way through wide boys and gangsters in his investigations.
Michael on the other hand is different. His story is more of a character study. A man returning to his roots after 30 odd years away. Brought up in a rundown working class Liverpool street by his Irish Catholic family. He’d hidden his past, determined to be successful and filthy rich. Arrogant, brutish and confident, Michael terrorises with snapping his fingers and shouting demands.
Back home the roles are almost reversed. His insanely beautiful wife Rosemary (Ann Bell) cuts him down with nags and jabs “stupid, drunken, Irish peasant” “You’re a perfect little creep“. He looks put upon then retaliates with “Don’t you cows ever feel anything?“. Their relationship is toxic. Where a few slaps across the face leads to one of the most raunchiest opening credit scenes I’ve seen outside of “adult” entertainment!
Michael likes to bully his boss and lay on the chauvinistic lines to his secretaries. Barking and clicking his digits. “I want a coffee, now” “Get me some sexy aspirin“. Both of them seem to like it, enjoy it even. Michael is the big man. He’s organised to expand in the world of computers. He’s the companies driving force. The man with the plan, dedicated.
Tagline – The most successful man in town. At home. At work. At play.
With the ring of a phone, Michael’s world is about to be turned upside down. But he’s the man. He can juggle these two new worlds that are about to collide after 30 plus years apart. His father lays dying in his Liverpool bed. Driving like a mad man, Michael floors his Jaguar down the motorway, northbound. A flashy Jag parked outside his old family home. He’s back to the world he’d tried to rub out. Soon his working class Irish heritage he’d turned his back on will return with a thud.
Dad had suffered a heart attack. But there’s more to this than first meets the eye. Hidden are bruises. Michael needs to find out who has done this? No better place to get information than the working mans club. And with it, one of the best and chaotic scenes in the film.
Patricia Gratton blasts out the vocals with sixties beat band, The Spectrum. Close up camera work zooms in close and personal. The laughter, singing, smiles and fun on everyone face is intimately personal. Pints are knocked back and chairs rock with the frantic entertainment. The band stops. The bingo starts. No transition. Just straight in. Keep the booze flowing. What next? Wrestling. Well there is a ring in the middle of the club. Everyone screams, the ladies go wild. The wrestlers smash. The crowd is in frenzy, crazy, ready to pop. What next? A bar brawl.
Luckily Michael got the info he wanted from his Dads best friend, Cocky Burke (J.G. Devlin). Michael has a big week in front of him. But first the warm nuzzle of a buxom northern lass called Joan (Barbara Ewing). Well, be rude not to! Can Michael discover what happened to his father? Will he seek revenge? How many ladies will he be able to bed? And are we going to like him by the end of this film? And most importantly can Jack Carter and Michael Marler pull off the same menacing black jacket look?
- The Reckoning is from a novel by Patrick Hall and directed by Jack Gold who would later go on to make Ace’s High and The Medusa Touch with Richard Burton.
- Nicol Williamson is probably best know know for playing Merlin in John Boorman’s Excalibur and Little John in Richard Lester’s Robin and Marian.
Where with Jack you’re on his side right from the get-go. Michael on the other hand is harder to root for. A more complexed character. It’s hard to have sympathy for him. He’s just a foul salesman at the end of the day but he still wins some points for a few emotional moments. Visiting his father was an extremely heart-rending moment. Showing genuine compassion and loss. I also enjoyed seeing his interactions with his extended family. The drunken party scene is well played out and either side of hilarious and cringey. The social problems Michael has to deal with in his head, poor Irishman from up north or high flying Londoner are little over played. Looking back I really enjoyed this film. Mainly down to all the wonderful little scenes. And just when you think it’s all over you get one of the best delivered closing lines to a movie, ever.
If you like your British drama gritty with a plateful of greasy bacon fat? Then this film is certainly for you.
And here to sing us out is Patricia Gratton with The Spectrum “I Can’t Hear You No More”