Real time, one-take, non-stop action is pushed to the nth degree in Jung Byung-Gil’s follow up to ‘The Villainess’. Joo Won plays the Carter of the title, an agent who wakes up with no memory (or clothes!) and in the middle of a pandemic that is causing US and Korean civilians to erupt into mindless violence. With a voice in his ear giving him cryptic instructions and a bomb in his mouth that will detonate if he doesn’t follow said instructions, Carter is thrust into a whirlwind of violence and chaos as he’s sent on a dangerous mission to help stop the spread of the virus.
There’s a little more going on in ‘Carter’ than the above synopsis summarises but essentially and seemingly the maker’s goal was to film one giant ongoing 2-hour action scene. And on those terms the makers pretty much succeed. There are moments of (merciful) downtime, but ‘Carter’ certainly delivers on one-take, real-time, drone-shot, in-your-face action and depending on one’s limits for this style of cinematic combat, it’s either a good thing or a bad thing. A love or hate it film for sure, ‘Carter’ certainly goes its own way for bringing relentless, how-did-they-do-that action to the screen. Some of the action is incredible: a late act attack on and in and around a virus infected compound; a train and multi-helicopter chase with the cast hanging from and flung in and around and over the various copters! Some of it, unfortunately, not great with relentless editing and drone-shooting rendering it all confusing: the epic motorcycle chase/fight that is seemingly trying to 1up the one seen in ‘The Villainess’.
The maddingly overuse of drone cam and constant digital fudging of takes (to make everything appear as a single take) becomes distracting rather than immersive and Carter’s apparent “superpowers” allowing him to survive every insane situation while rarely breaking a sweat leaves proceedings with little tension or sense of danger. If he at least looked a little beatdown and exhausted after every scrape or if there was at least some danger element for his character to give the action edge, but he almost swans through every action scene like a video game-controlled character!
While exhausting and frustrating at times, ‘Carter’ still delivers some innovative and energetic action and those who certainly like this more in-your-face, doesn’t-stop, video game style of action will get a lot more out of it. Joo Won and the stunt people do give it their all and there are some creative sequences on show, but it doesn’t quite come together into a satisfying whole.