When I decided to do a Their Best Role piece on Sir Michael Caine, I knew that choosing one character would be difficult. Caine's body of work is rich, diverse, and filled with classic parts -- many of which could very well be his best performance. Even then, I underestimated how many options there would be. Looking at a list of Caine's credits and trying to pick one that defines him above all others is a daunting task. The thespian won a Supporting Actor Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules. He was nominated for Best Actor after appearing in Alfie, Sleuth, Educating Rita, and The Quiet American. You can't argue against any of those performances -- each of them is memorable and demonstrates why we revere Caine's work. But, while those performances are great, I think a performance that Caine didn't get an Oscar nomination for stands as his best: his portrayal of Jack Carter in the 1971 British gangster film Get Carter.
If you've never seen Get Carter, you're missing out. It's a mean little film about a gangster (Caine) trying to unravel the events surrounding his brother's unexpected death. It's one of those classic examples of 70's crime cinema that proves "They don't make them like they used to." It's drawn comparisons to Lee Marvin's Point Blank and is often cited as the inspiration for the new wave of British gangster films from directors like Guy Ritchie. Its story of a professional killer seeking to vengeance and retribution at any cost isn't particularly profound -- but the direction of Mike Hodges and an absolutely mesmerizing performance from Caine move Get Carter beyond its pulpy origins and place it amongst the best British films of the era.