Film, Film Review

REVIEW: Carter (2022) dir. Jeong Byeong-Gil

Excruciatingly Malicious 


CARTER Cr. Son Ik-chung/Netflix © 2022

The common refrain to identify relentlessly visceral action movies as a “roller coaster ride” misses what makes roller coasters fun: the anticipation of the climb preceding the downfall. When a movie is truly incessantly violent, like The Raid or Mad Max: Fury Road, a car accident might be a more accurate descriptor. The point, more or less, is the spectacle itself. Writer and director Jung Byung-gil’s Carter might be more like a twelve-car train wreck.

In what’s basically The Bourne Identity meets Hardcore Henry directed by a would-be Michael Bay, a man (Joo Won) wakes up with no memories and is told he’s a North Korean spy named “Carter” on the run from the CIA. And he has a bomb in his tooth. And he must listen to the voice in his ear or his daughter who he doesn’t remember will die. And there are zombies. 

In this case, the shtick is “Mad Max but in a single shot.” The oner, of course, is a fake oner. And it’s a bad fake at that. There are dozens of edits that occur during daylight action sequences and don’t attempt to provide a strong enough “camera cover,” ultimately compromising the nauseating intended effect of the supposed oner in the first place. Understandably, to have a skydiving gun duel and a three car door-to-door set piece in the same oner would likely be impossible. But it’s not hard to imagine how much easier this could have been pulled off had the movie taken place largely at night rather than what must be the brightest point of the day.

There are some regretfully great action pieces here—the spinning helicopter fight being the best among them—but the spectacle is calculatedly capricious beyond redemption. Hence, the “regretfully” great action: the greatness only makes the violence even more malicious. 

The best comparison I can offer comes from the first Jurassic World, where the babysitter Zara (Katie McGrath) dies one of the most excruciating deaths in mainstream movies. Her death itself, graphic and shocking, is not the crux of what makes it excruciating; rather, it’s that the filmmakers seem to view her death as a narrative relief for our protagonists. It’s one thing to see someone truly evil die like that (such as the antagonists in The Raid)… but to see a bitchy babysitter ripped apart by pterodactyls and have it be an intended net boon for the film’s tone crosses a line. If you told me that part was Jeong’s favorite in the entire Jurassic World franchise, I’d believe you. The deaths and violence in Carter aspire to such cruelty. There could have been a few ways around this—perhaps by focusing the violence on the zombies rather than the neverending army of spies—but that’s not what happens. 

I was particularly disturbed by one sequence on the bed of a pig truck, where the squealing and dying pigs only ever amount to background noise to increase the visceral power of the image. All the hogs die—again, on the surface, not a problem in itself. Bad guys kill animals all the time in action movies. People die too. The problem is the camera: it doesn’t care enough to let us sit with a single one of the squealing pigs for even a half-second to feel something, to feel anything at all. That would distract from the spectacle of violence. The show must go on.

dir. Jeong Byeong-Gil
132 min.

Carter is currently streaming on Netflix.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License(unless otherwise indicated) © 2019