Thursday, March 16, 2023

Michael Caine

On Michael Caine's 90th birthday, John Nolte lists his own favorite Caine films. Below are some of Nolte's favorites that I have enjoyed enough to own the DVDs. I watched A Shock to the System just last night.
Zulu (1964)
The movie that made Caine a star is a superb reenactment of the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift, where 150 or so British soldiers somehow withstood an attack by 4,000 Zulu warriors. Caine isn’t the star, but as the arrogant and insecure officer who becomes a man over the course of the battle, the movie is all his.
The Ipcress File (1965)
Caine plays the now-iconic Harry Palmer, a bespectacled anti-James Bond. More bureaucrat than intelligence officer, Harry is our sloppy protagonist who works in a dingy office, lives in a dingy flat, and worries about things like balancing his expense account. The character was popular enough to power four sequels, all starring Caine.
Get Carter (1971)
Caine brings all his movie star power and unspoken depth to the British gangster film of all British gangster films. Cold, calculating, and fearless, Jack Carter returns home to avenge his brother. Carter is the thing that just keeps coming, and not even the ladies are safe.
The Man Who Would Be King
Caine and co-star Sean Connery shine like the superstars they are in John Huston’s rollicking adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s infectious adventure about two former British soldiers tired of the lack of criminal opportunities in the British Empire. And so, they resolve to take a treacherous journey to a place where modernity dares not go, and in this place, they will serve as kings.

The chemistry between Caine and Connery sells this swashbuckler in a way unseen since the days of Errol Flynn. This is also a movie with plenty to say about ego, friendship, loyalty, and, yes, colonialism.
A Shock to the System (1990)
A gem of a black comedy with a killer cast and killer script (adapted by my friend Andrew Klavan) about Graham Marshall (Caine), a milquetoast advertising executive who suffers one indignity too many, which turns him into a cunning sociopath. The business with the lighter is beyond ingenious, and Caine—even as Graham’s ruthlessness deepens and becomes petty—never loses the audience. Our complicity, our vicarious satisfaction in watching this warlock mow down everyone who stands in his way, defines “guilty pleasure.”
Harry Brown (2009)
Caine is perfect as an aging pensioner who’s just lost a wife to old age and a best friend to local hooligans. Unfortunately, the police are useless against a ruthless gang that terrorizes Harry’s housing project. Fed up, this former Royal Marine takes matters into his own hands, and the results are tense and glorious.

Sure, Bronson made five movies like this. However, Harry Brown still stands out because Daniel Barber beautifully directs it, and although Caine plays his age, you buy into everything that happens.
This is only a selection among many more. I enjoy Caine in just about everything he has done.

John Nolte, "Happy 90th Birthday to the Mighty Michael Caine," March 16, 2023.

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