Before turning into an inconsolable ball of rage and frustration, it is important to point out that Netflix has presented a handful of quality action films. Their names are “The Siege of Jadotville,” “Okja,” “The Night Comes For Us,” “Outlaw King,” “Triple Frontier,” “6 Underground”, “Extraction,” “Space Sweepers,” and “The Sea Beast.” For some reason (which is largely related to Netflix’s marketing), the aforementioned titles didn’t get a lot of attention and love. So, the streaming platform has decided to punish us with sub-par action flicks like “Spenser Confidential,” “The Old Guard,” “Project Power,” “Polar,” “Outside the Wire,” “Thunder Force,” “Army of the Dead,” “Xtreme,” “Jagame Thandhiram,” “Sweet Girl,” “Red Notice,” “Kate,” “Gunpowder Milkshake,” “Army of Thieves,” “Fistful of Vengeance,” “The Adam Project,” and “The Gray Man.” And it looks like they aren’t in the mood to stop because they’re here with “Carter.”
Directed and co-written by Jung Byung-gil, along with co-writer Jung Byeong-sik, “Carter” is technically a zombie film. Because it takes two months into a deadly pandemic originating from the Korean Demilitarized Zone, where the virus is turning its victims into feral, bald monsters. In the movie’s fictional reality, North Korea and the United States have already been devastated by this virus. And it is up to Carter (Joo Won) to conduct a rescue mission, which doubles as a search for the cure for this pandemic, and bring a girl called Jung Ha-na (Kim Bo-min) to the voice in his head. Yes, Carter doesn’t have any memory of who he is. He has been operated upon. Parts of his body are weaponized to kill him and those who try to nab him. On top of that, he has an audio device that only he can hear, which is directing him throughout his mission.
So, the movie’s big gimmick is that it’s made to look like a one-shot feature film. We’re not talking about traditionally edited films that have one or more, actual or fake, continuous takes. We’re also not talking about films that were actually done in one long take, e.g., “Victoria,” “Boiling Point,” and “Iravin Nizhal.” We’re talking about faux one-shot feature films. One of the earliest examples of this film-making technique is “Rope,” where Alfred Hitchcock intended to make a film without any cuts. But due to the limitations that came with film stock, it was broken up into segments, and the cuts were hidden behind furniture or whip pans. Since then, this technique has been borrowed and updated with CGI stitching in films like “Irréversible,” “Birdman,” “1917,” and “One Shot.” However, the way Byung-gil and his team do the same makes it seem like Hitchcock committed a colossal mistake by coming up with this concept.
The film-making on display is so egregiously bad that it’s not even funny. It genuinely feels like a rough edit of the film, masquerading as the final product, has been uploaded to the streaming platform. There’s not a single instance where Jung Byung-gil tries to hide any of the “invisible” cuts in “Carter.” When the camera has to go from one room to another, and the other room is obviously a different plate (or take), there’s no attempt to align it with the perspective provided by the camera. It appears like a 2D image, and once you’ve left the first frame, the second frame comes to life. There are takes of characters doing regular stuff that have very visible “hidden” cuts in there. During a chase, the shadow of a camera goes from being visible in a sunny day shot to being invisible in a cloudy day shot in the same scene. And then there’s a plane escape sequence that’s worse than the one in “The Gray Man.”
The only way to watch “Carter” is with the assumption that Jung Byung-gil wants to end this trend of long continuous takes. That’s why he has made something so horrendous and bereft of any artistic quality that people are going to scream at the skies and ask directors to stick to regular editing. Please keep in mind that Jung Byung-gil has used this same gimmick in his own movie, “The Villainess,” and it is way better than this. In fact, that movie went on to inspire many other films, too, namely “John Wick: Chapter 3”. So, it’s probably expected of Jung Byung-gil to recreate the magic or top that standard of action. But, it seems like, in an attempt to subvert expectations, Jung Byung-gil has gone in the opposite direction and created a parody of this sub-genre of films. The best twist of all time will be if Jung Byung-gil reveals that he actually shot the movie in one continuous take and added bad “hidden” cuts to mess with our brains.
Although this may seem funny and whatnot, ultimately, the final product is a poor representation of the blood, sweat, and tears of the people you see in “Carter.” There are so many stunt people involved who are throwing themselves into and from places. CGI artists have worked day-in-and-day-out to try and match every frame with the next one or make every element in a given frame look as realistic as possible. There are multiple sets in the film which are constructed and decimated to show the ferocity of the action. Every single actor, especially Joo Won, is doing their best to sell every single emotion in the story. But all that is overshadowed by this badly executed gimmick. And there’s nothing more shameful than that. It’s difficult to accurately say what went wrong here. Did Jung Byung-gil bite more than he could chew? Did Netflix rush the production? Were there heavy scheduling conflicts? There’s truly no way to tell.
So, in conclusion, “Carter” is undoubtedly one of the worst movies of the year and one of the worst action movies of all time. The genre is not made up of just Marvel and Netflix movies. There are some recent, beautiful examples, such as “Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota,” the “Mission: Impossible” films, the “John Wick” films, “Blade of the Immortal,” the “Rurouni Kenshin” films, the “Kung Fu Panda” trilogy, “The Outlaws,” “The Roundup,” “Kaithi,” “Minnal Murali,” Edgar Wright’s entire filmography, Daniel Craig’s James Bond era, “Atomic Blonde,” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” On the other hand, “Carter” (along with some of the aforementioned bad Netflix action films) appears to be a step backward in terms of the genre’s evolution. Everything that appears on the screen has a sense of irreverence towards the very craft of film-making (action film-making, to be specific). That’s why please don’t watch “Carter” or movies like it. Watch good action films and cultivate your appreciation for the genre.