When only action makes sense
Remember Michael Davis' action-packed Shoot 'Em Up from 2007? Even though it went on to become a favourite among action fans, the reviews when it first came out were divided. Some found the plot to be non-existent and had nothing appealing besides gunfights and explosions. Carter, a new South Korean action thriller about an amnesiac agent who is given an impossible mission, is another movie that follows the Shoot 'Em Up formula, where only action makes sense.
Directed by Jung Byung-gil, Carter is set two months into a deadly pandemic originating from the DMZ that has devastated the US and North Korea. A man named Carter (Joo Won) wakes up in a motel room with no recollection of his past. In his head, there is a mysterious device and in his mouth is attached a lethal bomb. There's also a strange voice in his ears that gives him orders. The bomb may go off at any time unless he rescues a kidnapped girl, who is the sole antidote to the virus. However, the CIA and a North Korean cop are hot on Carter's heels.
I'm not familiar with previous films of Jung Byung-gil, but from my research, the director is well-known for always attempting something that could visually pop. While I appreciate a filmmaker trying to be innovative and thinking outside the box, sometimes it's a little too much and it doesn't work.
The violence in each sequence in Carter is extreme, and most of the fight choreography looks like a video game or one long music video. Some of the visual effects are also a bit cartoony. Since the trailer came out, Carter marketed itself as a one-take or one-shot action film, but it's just a trick of how they edited it to make it look like one continuous take. You can really tell when they stitched two scenes together as things get a little blurry or an object blocks the camera for a split second. While some sequences are intense and immersive, often the insane camera movement can feel awkward and jarring which makes it difficult to see what's going on.
The story in Carter is shallow and at times incoherent and you're definitely going to have a ton of disbelief. There are some interesting moments though as we watch this man with no memory attempt to accomplish a dangerous mission. But after a while without any character development the story drags because pretty much everything in this hinges on stunts. The dialogue is silly and even the delivery is extremely cringy. Sometimes they try to sound smart, but the script ends up not making sense. The acting, camera work and other setups felt almost like the filmmaker only wanted the movie to look cool and didn't worry about being realistic or coming across as too pretentious.
The acting is also poor. The characters feel as if they are made out of cardboard. The CIA agents look like agents from The Matrix movies and most of the team is incredibly poorly trained. I mean they get their butts kicked way too easily and a lot of the sequences make me question their training and legitimacy. Even the very brief cameos by Hollywood guests like Mike Colter and Camilla Belle are disappointing as they bear no purpose in the story other than to give this film a semblance of international intrigue.
Carter is an almost non-stop thrill ride with crazy action and stunts but it is far from original. However, if you're looking to fill two hours watching only action without caring about the story, give this a watch.
- Starring Joo Won, Lee Sung-jae, Kim Bo-min
- Directed by Jung Byung-gil
- Now streaming on Netflix