South Korea is no stranger to action thrillers set in a world where a mysterious illness spreads like wildfire among the general population. The release of COVID-19 has sparked the creation of numerous additional films set in unregulated conditions, with authorities at a loss for words. Carter, a Netflix original, is the most recent Korean adaptation of this famous cliché. Byung-Gil Jung’s adrenaline-pumping, continuous action extravaganza is a cross between John Wick and Train to Busan, with a dash of Resident Evil tossed in for good measure.
The plot is a haphazard mash-up of the aforementioned titles, but one thing stands out: the brilliantly directed battle sequences and stellar stunt choreography. The action directors/stunt coordinators/stuntpersons involved in the production are the sole reason to watch Carter, whether it’s hand-to-hand combat, weapons discharge, chase scenes across busy streets and solitary train tracks, jungle warfare, or long-drawn-out aerial assault (aircraft and helicopter).
Aside from the ridiculous yet incredibly realistic (for the most part) action, the cinematography (both on the ground and high in the sky) is, as one would imagine, quite outstanding! There are instances that make you feel like you’re right there with our protagonist as he picks off the advancing horde one body at a time. The rather absurd plot involves the intertwining of far too many elements: temporary amnesia, a microchip in the brain, allegiance to one’s country, familial ties, parental responsibility and sacrifice, international conspiracy and espionage, deep distrust between the North and South, and a strange pandemic that kickstarts the ensuing circle of madness.
He takes his identity (Carter Lee) at face value and, with nothing to lose, agrees with everything the voice says. As he pulls together what little he can along the way, the villains arrive thick and fast (giving him little choice except to kill or be murdered). The DMZ (originating from the Korean Demilitarized Zone) virus has overrun both Korea and the United States.
Carter doesn’t even give you a minute to catch your breath between death-defying sequences-an assembly line of combat tactics, if you will. In that way, the authors and director are intimately familiar with their product. And they capitalize on what’s working. The story is weak, with aspects stolen from a number of similar films from the past. If you focus too much on that instead of Carter’s out-and-out daredevilry, you’ll be sorely disappointed.