Michael Caine plays a pulp writer who finds himself involved in a real-life mystery when a reclusive actor played by Mickey Rooney recruits him to ghostwrite his autobiography.
Caine’s reunion with Get Carter director Mike Hodges revisits the gangster-pulp genre, this time as satire. The result plays like an in-joke tinged with resentment.
It’s easy to view this as Hodges’ reaction to Get Carter’s success and resulting pressure to deliver similar material. He’d show them. Instead of dreary English industrial townscapes, he’d showcase the sunny Malta. Instead of Carter’s cold-blooded menace, Pulp’s protagonist would faint at the sight of his own blood. And along the way, he’d ridicule all the genre’s conventions. And, it sorta works.
It may have worked even better had Hodges been able to coax James Cagney out of retirement for Mickey Rooney’s role.
Regardless, the gags, while not laugh aloud funny, elicit chuckles. It’s the kind of film that you rewatch to catch the jokes you missed, except, upon rewatching it, you can’t find what you missed. You feel like there’s something there, and that, perhaps, is Hodges’ best gag. One that reveals he’s laughing at us.