Action films are always trying to reach the next level. The genre has basically been thriving for generations of filmmakers, who have been trying to top each other every time they make a film. Bigger explosions, more intricate choreography, more impressive camera work. The technical proficiency of action filmmakers has always been on the rise, and with the release of films like The Raid and the John Wick series, action filmmakers were shown that the ceiling could go even higher.
However, while the ceiling for technical proficiency has become higher with each new action release, sometimes filmmakers forget that the action sequences need to be surrounded by a good story and a good set of characters. Without them, the audience will have a hard time caring about what happens on the screen, no matter how impressive the action sequences are. Carter, the new South Korean actioner on Netflix, suffers from this. There are a lot of things exploding, but not enough story or character to make you care.
The film is directed by Jung Byung-gil, who also directed another actioner, The Villainess, and the erratic Confessions of a Murderer. The film stars Joo Won, Lee Sung-jae, and Jeong So-ri. The film tells the story of Agent Carter. Carter awakens with no memory and learns that he is in the middle of a very important mission to find the cure for a virus that is turning people into zombies, and it threatens going out of the Korean peninsula.
Carter is a big mismatch of ideas and film techniques. The movie works better as a film reel for stun crews than as an actual movie. The work done here by the stunt artists is quite impressive, and it is the best thing about the movie. The stuntmen are basically doing every single thing they can imagine, and director Byung-gil allows it with gusto. However, too much of a good thing is not good, and the constant action gets very tiresome by the half-hour mark.
This is a very bad thing, as Carter is a two-hour movie that just goes and goes. The movie is very similar to what Hardcore Henry did a couple of years ago. It is all about being an absurd action movie, and in that regard, it can be appreciated. If you just want to watch pure, meaningless nonsense, then this is the movie for you. It can be quite entertaining in that regard.
If you are looking for a film that tells a coherent story, develops its characters, and makes you feel something, then you better look somewhere else. The film relies on too many gimmicks, and it doesn’t pull them off with great success most of the time. For example, the film is done as if it were just one continuous shot, which is, of course, a lie. However, the places where the cuts are made are so noticeable that it makes you wonder why they tried to make the movie like this in the first place.
The movie also uses this video-quality cinematography that makes you think of a found footage movie, like the look Hardcore Henry was trying to pull off. But Carter isn’t a found footage movie, so the look ends up just being quite ugly. The frenetic nature of the scenes will also end up making some part of the audience nauseated. You really need a good sense of equilibrium if you want to watch this movie. If you get dizzy easily, avoid this like the plague.
Among the long-winded action sequences, Carter tries to tell a story about spies, a coup d’état, colonialism, and so many other things. But the way the movie presents this story is baffling, to say the least, especially when it mixes it all up with a zombie virus. It makes everything feel just too absurd, and the acting is not good enough to sell it as something that is really happening and should be taken seriously.
Joo Won does a very good job when it comes to performing the action, but his charismatic nature as an actor is completely erased while performing his character in this movie. The character is often confused about what is happening around him, and just like the audience, we are just following along until the movie ends. Where is the story going? It doesn’t really matter; it is all just an excuse to get into a new action sequence.
So, there are two ways to watch this movie. The first way is as an absurd action reel, where you can see the great work done by the stunt artists. The second way is as a movie that doesn’t really know how to tell a good story or even how to present good-looking shots. Your enjoyment will depend a lot on the way you look at it.
Carter tries to do something cool but ends up losing itself in its own gimmicks, resulting in a movie that is both exhausting and quite boring, even when we are talking about a two-hour-long action sequence.