18

[Movie Review] Netflix’s Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

Netflix’s action film Carter boasts a one-scene, one-cut format, and a whole heck of a lot of highly choreographed fight scenes. As I love a good action flick — and a tenacious hero that packs a punch, and a kick, and possibly a couple of deadly weapons too — I tuned in.

 
MOVIE REVIEW
Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

Carter, as it turns out, is pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of movie. Did you come to see Joo-won kick arse as the eponymous hero? You will get that. Did you come to see the slick choreography and almost too crazy to be real fight scenes? You will get that too (and really, they are too crazy to be real, because a good chunk of them are heavy-laden with CGI).

But did you come for an expertly woven tale of geopolitical tensions, rogue operators, tested loyalties, and a high-stakes pandemic setting? Well, you won’t really get that. I mean, they tried, but there’s not a whole lot there, and that’s likely because each scene is about the fight it engenders, not about the actual plot it contains.

Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

But there is an actual plot for Carter, and it’s this: a man (of the highly-trained operator variety) wakes up in a creepy bedroom with no memory of who he is, how he got there, or anything else up until that moment. All he has to go on is a woman’s voice in his head giving him incessant instruction.

That voice is technically in his brain somehow, because the other thing he wakes up with is a cross-shaped scar on the back of his shaved head, freshly stapled shut. (It smacks of Hitman to me, but also, if you thought they were going to do something with the cross-shaped motif, you’d be wrong. Ain’t no time for metaphors when you’re running for your life in a g-string).

Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

Much like being in a first-person shooter video game, we — and the camera — follow Carter closely, panning around him in all sorts of cool ways, and following him in a way that really make you feel like you’re the one escaping naked killers in an opium haze, or riding a motorcycle at top speed while leaping into van while simultaneously fighting off evil secret agents. Or any other kind of vehicle. Trains, planes, whatever — if there is something moving at high velocity that would make these action sequences more insanely gravity-defying and staggering, it happens in this movie.

While I might poke fun at the lack of story, there actually is one lurking under all the action, it just takes such a second seat to it that it feels tangential. Also, the story could be anything, and it almost doesn’t matter, because the common denominator is Carter trusting no one, bludgeoning everyone, and trying to complete his mission — or die trying.

Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

I think the opening scene where Carter first wakes up is one of the strongest in the movie, mostly because it’s very pointed in what it sets up for us. A pan across the creepy porn room shows us that some rogue surgeries have taken place, and the TV tells us the entire setup (it’s really all you need to know).

In a dystopic near-future, it’s been ten months since the “DMZ virus” broke out (yes, it’s another virus story). Now, an important figure DOCTOR JUNG (Jung Jae-young) and his younger daughter HANA (Kim Bo-min) are missing. They were on their way to North Korea when they were seemingly taken hostage or apprehended.

They’re important because Dr. Jung somehow saved his daughter from the DMZ virus — hence she holds the secret to the cure and there’s a huge antibody operation going on in an appropriately creepy lab that we’ll visit during the plot climax. But right now, it’s just sky-high political tensions between North and South Korea and the CIA, which is for some reason also deeply involved.

Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

Speaking of the CIA, Carter wakes up post-op and is immediately assaulted by CIA agents looking for Dr. Jung — but I don’t know what’s scarier, the way they immediately try to shoot Carter dead, or their god-awful acting skills (Camilla Belle, Mike Colter, come on guys!).

Regardless, the voice in Carter’s head tells him to get outta there and then guides him out of his current hellacious circumstances into yet more hellacious circumstances.

A dive through the window puts him in a super creepy opium sauna situation, where he winds up fighting off a million naked individuals — it’s like a legitimate Hieronymus Bosch nightmare, and nothing like the all-for-the-fun shower fight in The K2. It’s this scene that shows us how violent Carter is willing to get (too violent), and how fast the pace is going to be (too fast).

Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

After Carter clothes himself things get a little more civil, but the man doesn’t have a moment to rest. All the while he’s following the woman’s voice in his head — acting purely on faith, because there’s really not much else to go on. Every agent he meets tries to convince him they’re on his side, and from the audience’s perspective it’s a jumble. Are we supposed to trust the guiding voice along with Carter, or is he heading for destruction and about to ruin whatever the true/good plan is here?

It turns out his mission is to save Hana, a very cute little girl in overalls who is clearly having a day. It was one thing to watch Carter run and fight for his life, but once he secures Hana, each scene is complicated by also having to keep Hana safe.

Even though there’s nothing believable about any of these intense and long-winded action scenes, they’re kinda fun if you embrace the impossibilities and just enjoy the sheer tour de force that is Carter/Joo-won.

Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else

For a movie of back-to-back action sequences, Carter feels like it’s way longer than it needs to be, but in a way, we are stuck on the mission with him as well. The strongest bits of the movie are just that — that we are experiencing everything quite viscerally with him — and if that’s enough for you, then you’ll be fine. But if you’re looking for something with a little more craft behind it — like a script longer than twenty pages, or a satisfying twist that gives you something to make you feel like your two hours weren’t entirely wasted, you’ll probably leave dissatisfied.

However, for me, it wasn’t a total waste: the real revelation here is Joo-won, who I didn’t really know had such a beast mode. He brings a great screen presence and energy to each scene, and just watching the fight choreography is impressive (not to mention exhausting).

I do love a larger-than-life hero, so if there was anything for me to gobble up here, it was that. Joo-won makes the most of what’s available to him in this rather undeveloped character, carrying the weight of an action hero quite well. The only problem, I guess, is that it could have been so much better if there were something more for him to actually carry.

Netflix's Carter offers great camera work and fight choreography but not much else
 
RELATED POSTS

Tags: , ,

18

Required fields are marked *

Laughed out loud teading your review, @missvictrix! You are so good at expressing your thoughts in a way everyone can understand.

What I understand is: Carter is not for me.

7
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

*reading

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

"Ain’t no time for metaphors when you’re running for your life in a g-string" --> Might be one of my fav lines in a review ever 🤣

10
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

All for you! ♥ hahaha

5
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ain’t no time for metaphors when you’re running for your life in a g-string

Oh @missvictrix, I love you. Please never stop writing the way you do. Has to be up there among the best lines ever written for this site. You managed to make the review equally hilarious and concise. Thanks for reminding me that if I ever wish to see Joo-won tackling political intrigue and high-octane action, I should stick to Gaksital, an actual good show.

2
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

haha thank you! I had way too much fun writing this one ;)

6
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes, we could literally see you smiling away as you typed it out.🤣

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

@missvictrix congrats for getting the award for the best description of ridiculous situations🏆 The phrases you use evoke visuals and the screen shots prove you really aren’t exaggerating. I was ‘almost’ tempted to start watching just to see an example and then I remembered I can’t handle the mildest violence and this sounds like Tarantino levels of violence ramped up to make it more like a video game.

Re the English speaking actors. EVERY time I see and hear non Korean actors I wonder if the pool only consists of actors who couldn’t make it in their home countries so go to Korea because the market is less competitive. It’s beyond embarrassing how bad they ALWAYS are.

The social worker in me has been activated by seeing such a young child and imagining the impact of exposure to the violence you describe. I hope they did a disclaimer at the start to say ‘no child was emotionally harmed during filming’ 😬

Thank you for a purely entertaining read.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

lol.. Not sure if that was the intent, but I am going to check it out! I could use a mindless action movie right now. Thanks for the review!

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is a bad movie. I didn't finish it and not just because I was sick. The English dialogue was so bad, I really wish they would get English writers for this instead of whatever it is they do. I was a little surprised to see both Camilla Belle(who I haven't seen in a movie in years) and Mike Colter(just random, sir why are you in this random movie, go back to Evil,lol) pop out. Also, the pointing the gun at a person without shooting is played, I want everyone globally to stop that. That being said Joo Won would be a good action star in a better movie or TV show.

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

"Be careful, it's slippery..." That is exactly what a girl who's just managed to survive multiple shootings and free-falling for kilometres needs to do. Careful, Hana, a rock might finish you off whilst multiple bullets and bombs can't!

What. A. Pile. Of. Plop. But we got stomach cramps from laughing soooooooooo much :)

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Honestly, it was more like a video game than a movie. The cinematography, the bad dialogues, the bad acting... How did they put a plane, a helo, a train, a bridge fights in one movie ? Joo-Won looked great with the tatoos but his acting wasn't really good either.

And the end...

I think I will rewatch The Man from Nowhere instead.

2
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love The Man From Nowhere. Other faves are The Villainess and of course John Wick trilogy.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Whoa, just the sight of that Dollar Store Halloween spider web is enough to convince me to not watch! 🤣🤣🤣

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Watched the first 15 mins and it looks like a cheap B movie. Feel embarassed for Joo Won filming that fight scene in a thong.

2
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

This comment made me literally cry with laughter as I could literally see him trying to negotiate with wardrobe for some boxer shorts🤣

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

@Sommer: I can’t get over the weirdness and absurdity of being dressed in a thong for a fight scene. When I was reading the weecap, I initially thought he was wearing one thong (flip flops are called thongs in Oz) from a pair. But, oh, no, it was the gross underwear “thong”. The mind boggles.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I like action flicks like other people. But I didnt like the first person shooter pov the movie does throughout. The action was unbelievable but if it had a tightly woven story I probably would be more forgiving. What I didnt like most of all is its unnecessary violence which I found off putting. With a bunch of muscular tattooed guys fighting in a gstring must be entertaining for some but I found it too much especially with the gore. The first shooter pov made me dizzy that I actually ffd through it all. I actually stopped it after he found Hana. I think if the director knew how to do the action scenes in moderation I may be able to sit through it all. Its like an action flick on steroids and too much of everything is just not for me.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *