Netflix UK film review: Carter
Chances you’ll wince while its on10
Chances you’ll like it if you like VR8
Ian Loring | On 20, Aug 2022
Director: Byung-gil Jung
Cast: Joo Won, Kim Bo-Min, Sung-Jae Lee
In the world of video games, there’s a type of experience that is referred to as a “video game-ass video game”, something like the Metal Gear Solid series, which seeks to stuff your senses with ridiculous action, has a storyline full of portent while also being incredibly silly – and, at the pure heart of it, just seeks to engage your pleasure centres. This year has seen this concept brought deliriously to the film world with RRR, a three-hour cartoony yet serious yet sugar rush-inducing actioner, and Moonfall, a film in which, at multiple moments, the Moon appears to sneak up on people. We now have another example to add to the list: Byung-gil Jung’s Carter.
Starting off as a relatively rote story of a man with no memory of who he is discovering his true self – while killing an extraordinary amount of people in the name of self-defence – we are soon thrust into a world of conspiracy and potentially unreliable narrator exposition, as we get a film that can best be described as Memento meets John Wick, but then 28 Days Later T-bones your car. Joo Won shows exceptional poise as our man at the centre of it all, trying to make sense of what he’s going through, and shows tremendous faith in his director for going along with a plot that constantly threatens to collapse but throws so much stuff at you there’s no time for that to happen.
Jung’s previous film, The Villainess, also showed a penchant for mad storytelling and insane action but with Carter, it’s as if he’s been told he’s never going to be allowed to direct ever again and he’s decided to go all out. Playing as seemingly a one-shot, but wisely never trying very hard to hide the cuts, it has a bizarre stutter in how the visuals flow. This, along with the CG-assisted (or CG-addled if you were less kind) transitions between sections, throws you for a loop in a way that may honestly make those prone to motion sickness feel ill. It is a choice, and perhaps not the right one, but it’s certainly distinctive.
If you do vibe with the whole thing, however, you’re in for one heck of a time. It is exhausting but purposefully so, the whole thing taking an action-film approach to the “one crazy night” sub-genre but extending that out. The scale of the action in its variety probably can’t be beaten anywhere – there’s so much of it, all handled very well, and when the action does slow down, you get a good breather and some “video game-ass” exposition that will make you laugh in disbelief in the best possible way. And, in one of those sections, you even get Mike Colter cameoing and being awesome.
In short, Carter is one of the most movies a movie has ever movied. You may well not like it – but, for those inclined, catch it before you see it in lists of the best cult films you’ve never seen and then hope the sequel teased at the end gets made.