Never have I ever seen more cinematic “wow” wasted on a bad action script than this Korean cavalcade of crap.
“Carter” has a sky-diving fight that out Tom Cruises every “Mission: Impossible.” It has a bloodbath in a bathhouse, mid-air mayhem, a rope-bridge wrangle and a perilous pummeling in a pork truck, complete with DIGITAL pigs.
Throw in blood and water on the lens as we’re hurled into shootouts and throw-downs and through dizzying hand-held chases on foot, in buses and cars and on a Papa John’s delivery bike.
It’s a first-person chaser/kicker/slasher and shooter video game with virtually nothing that you could call a plot or “acting” and some reasonably convincing digitally-assisted stunts. Needless to say, “Carter” has more Bugs Bunny Physics than a year’s worth of Looney Tunes.
All of this — and a LOT of Netflix’s bottom-line — are flung at an idiotically muddled story of a zombie virus and its possible cure, which North and South Korea are fighting over, or perhaps fighting together to keep out of the hands of the American CIA.
The “DMZ virus” broke out and spread north, triggering a coup. And now it’s spreading, although the movie goes to pains to show us news reports saying South Korea has eradicated its cases.
Rub it in.
Joo Won, all muscles and tattoos, plays “Carter,” a guy who wakes up with no memory, a bald spot shaved onto the back of his head, and stitches. Implants connect him to a female voice, full of instructions and threats. There’s a bomb or two in his skull, too.
He’s implicated in the abduction of the one scientist who found a cure, and his little girl Han-na (Kim Bo-Min). That CIA team that just stormed into his apartment (he’s in skinny-minny underwear)? Fight them off.
“Jump out of the window to the next building!” In English, or subtitled Korean, needless to say.
That plunges “Carter Lee” into an S & M bathhouse that he must slash and slice his way out of. Scores and scores of nearly-naked bodies fly about in the steam, stabbed and hacked with a scythe until they struggle no more.
The early scenes have a bracing energy, even if the fights are as nonsensical as they are brutal. By the time our guy’s made his way far enough into the story to put some damned clothes on, the convoluted plot, Byzantine intrigues and head-scratching logic start to overwhelm it, and quickly succeed.
Can anybody trust anybody? Whose agenda is served by brainwashing a Manchurian Mass Murderer candidate into fighting for the South, and the North, and the CIA — or against each in turn as he tries to recover the child and find the scientist?
Damned if I know.
In this Byung gil-Jung (“Confessions of Murder”) film, the zombies are kind of an afterthought, supposedly “super strong” and “able to use tools,” something the TV newscasters feel obligated to mention as we’ve all memorized the usual zombie Achilles heels.
There are lectures on North Korean blind loyalty and intimations of South Korean treachery. And everybody hates the CIA, embodied by Maurice Turner Jr. and some minions, and by former child actress who-never-got-better Camilla Belle, reduced to bit parts in South Korean thrillers because that’s the way it goes.
This is “Crank” with one long, frenetic, ticking-clock chase and the occasional “Mission: Impossible” level stunt, and a body count and a story that you cannot let yourself think about, even though both are in your face and appalling, first scene to closing credits.
Because “Carter” goes off the rails long before its takedown on a train, before hostilities break out on a helicopter, off the deep end without ever hitting the water and off its nut without ever having one.
Rating: TV-MA, graphic bloody violence, nudity, profanity
Cast: Joo Won, Kim Bo-min, Maurice Turner Jr. and Camilla Belle.
Credits: Directed by Byung-gil Jung, scripted by Byeong-sik Jung and Byung-gil Jung. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:14