Netflix has two big new movies coming from South Korea exclusively this month, one of which has just touched down in the form of Carter. Should you hit play on the new Netflix movie or you should scroll? Here’s our PLAY, PAUSE OR STOP review of Carter.
The new movie features Joo Won as Carter (Good Doctor), Sung-Jae Lee as Kim Jong Hyuk (Abyss) and Kim Bo-Min (The Silent Sea).
Joo Won is famous for his portrayal of Park Shi On in the Good Doctor, which was eventually adapted into an American medical drama of the same name for Fox featuring Freddie Highmore.
Thrown straight into a dangerous mission with none of his memories intact, a man must escape death while trying to figure out who he is, how he ended up here, and who is the mysterious voice in his ear calling him “Carter”?
Korean Original Netflix Films are some of my favorites on the platform. Time To Hunt, Okja, The Call, Space Sweepers, and #Alive.
They all brought something fresh & exciting to sub-genres that may have gone stale over the past few years.
My hope for Carter was to do exactly that: give me something new and exciting that I could see replicated by American films to come (I’m looking at you, Extraction).
But, now, my hope is that American filmmakers only watch the fight sequences on YouTube.
Carter is an ultra-violent masterclass in close-quarters fighting & vehicular stunt work, but it is also an unnecessarily convoluted film with a shallow titular lead and a bloated runtime.
The movie seems to be fascinated or preoccupied with certain elements that, by themselves, could have been an interesting backdrop or subtext to the main plot. A virus containment in the age of Covid, frayed North Korean/South Korean Relations, U.S./CIA involvement in South Korea, and of course, Zombies! But instead, it tries to cram in all of these things to muddle a story full of unreliable characters & a lead with amnesia.
The effect is mostly confusion as we try to piece together the character of Carter through forced exposition dumps between fight sequences.
Some fans of the genre might also complain about the presentation of the action itself as director Byung-gil Jung (The Villainess) has brought an uncommon inspiration to his POV compositions: Video Games.
Between drone shot transitions & rotating tracking shots, the cinematography feels like the scenes between missions in certain First Person Shooter games. With the constant direction & narration of the female agent in Carter’s ear, this feature feels more like he is just a character selected by her & the people in charge of him to win enough levels to get the big boss at the end.
Of all the insane action stunt work scenes, the one that stood out for me is the fight sequence around 50 minutes into the movie that starts with the kidnapping of a child from a man on a motorcycle. This leads into a mostly close-quarters, high-speed battle that has men leaping from motorcycles into open cars, shootouts & knife fights between 3 moving vehicles at once, and a city bus flipping over in the middle of a busy street. This nearly 7-minute sequence culminates in several motorcycles blowing up all at once.
While this did not work for me as a device, I will say that the movie moves too fast and dazzles just enough with its stunt choreography to not stay long enough to bore us.
Ultimately, the film is a perfect example of modern action cinema gone awry. Action works best when in service to the plot. While incredibly good at it, Carter puts all of its eggs into the fight sequence basket and moves backstory, character development, & cohesive storytelling to the back burner.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?: PAUSE.
While you may cringe at the dialogue or be unimpressed by the plot, you must admit that the action & stunt work will impress almost any casual action film fan, even if some of them are incredibly unbelievable.