Action thrillers set in a setting where a mysterious illness spreads like wildfire among the general public are nothing new in South Korea. A number of other movies portraying law enforcement at its wit’s end and uncontrolled surroundings have been influenced by COVID-19. Byung-Gil Jung’s adrenaline-pumping, continuous action extravaganza Carter, a Netflix original, is the most recent Korean example of this well-known cliché. Byung-Gil Jung’s film is a sort of John Wick meets Train to Busan meets Kate knockoff with just enough Resident Evil tossed in.
The plot is a haphazard amalgam of the aforementioned titles, but the battle scenes are well handled, and the stunt choreography is top-notch. The only reason to watch Carter is for the 360-degree, point-of-view shots, whether it be hand-to-hand combat, weapon discharge, chase scenes across busy streets and isolated train tracks, jungle warfare, or long-drawn-out aerial assault (aircraft and helicopter). These shots were created by the action directors, stunt coordinators, and stuntpeople who worked on the production.
Along with the crazy yet remarkably realistic (for the most part) action, the cinematography is, as one would imagine, pretty outstanding. There are passages that make you feel as though you’re right there with our protagonist, taking out the advancing horde one body at a time. Temporary amnesia, a microchip in the brain, loyalty to one’s country, familial bonds, parental duty and sacrifice, a multinational conspiracy and espionage, as well as an odd disease that sets off this spiralling lunacy, are just a few of the absurdly intertwined components in the story. The film’s genre is treated with no holds barred, which overshadows the uninspired and unimpressive narrative.
It isn’t a particularly clever vision, to begin with, but I suppose that wasn’t Byung-Gil Jung’s intention. A man discovers he has lost all memory upon awakening in a bloody and bruised hotel room. He is trying to answer questions like how he got there, who he is, and why the CIA is at his door. What’s worse is that he is receiving survival instructions from an audio gadget that is buried deep into his ear. He can’t remember the woman’s family, but she warns him to trust her or his wife and child back in North Korea will be in danger.
He accepts his identity (Carter Lee) at face value and follows the voice’s instructions since he seems to have nothing to lose. He pulls together what little he can along the way, but the evil guys arrive thick and fast (leaving him with little alternative except to murder or be killed). Both Korea and the United States have been infected by an unidentified, lethal virus known as the DMZ (from the Korean Demilitarized Zone).
A prominent epidemiologist from Korea has discovered a treatment through his little daughter, but he has since vanished. While rumours of a destabilising coup circulate, the South and North accuse one another of defamation. To safeguard its own interests, US Intelligence intervenes. The child comes first and foremost. Where is she, though? Where is the physician? An untrustworthy voice inside Carter’s ear, a voice he is sceptical of from the start, is leading his suicide espionage operation to find the girl and bring her to North Korea.
Carter doesn’t even give you a minute to catch your breath since the action is so nonstop that it feels like an assembly line of fighting moves. The authors and directors are knowledgeable about their work in this regard. And they effectively capitalise on what is working. The movie has a weak story that borrows from a number of other films with a similar theme. You’re going to be incredibly let down if you focus on that instead of Carter’s overt daredevilry too much. The best course of action, in this case, could be to relax and let things happen naturally!