Frantic (if idiotically narrated) action rushes the plot of this uneven actioneer through politically incorrect scenarios with relish and undeniable cheese appeal. The clearly established if not very likeable character, Carlos, jumps into action with the speed (if not quite the impact) of a bullet ripping through vital organs.

While not unique in plot, following in the firmly established tradition of action and exploitation past, this 85 minute adrenaline rush packs decent stunts, satisfying imagery, and enough violence to make it a literal "Best Of" compilation of "your favorite acts of murder, ass-kicking, and fistfights!" It also features enough plot-twists, underhanded politics, mob-boss meanderings, and treachery to satisfy crime buffs looking for some harmless diversion. While far from influential or a masterful exploration of craft, Carlos is satisfying as exploitation if not as art.

Chronicling the minimal story of Carlos, a man on the run from both his crime connections and Law and Order - the latter of which was supposed to help him and instead reveals itself to be just as (if not more) corrupt than the life of murder and blood he tried to leave behind -- the sub-plot and subtext of the story are admirable in their attempt to imbue surface thrills with retrospective flavor. It's the cheaply made look of the movie that prevents the full emotional effect from developing. Still, while not the best cinema in terms of quality or production, this movie never pretends to be anything more than fist-in-your-face action. Sensation and sin are the orders of the day, not introspection. While the acting is pedestrian and the effects suspect, the overall atmosphere and heart-thumping energy of the production lends it a gritty, infectious enthusiasm for its criminal shenanigans.

A man used to murder and the secret shames that haunt a man at two in the morning, Carlos, a terrorist in heart and action, decides he's had enough of the crime life for the sake of his family. Lean, mean, and undeniably dangerous (played to good effect by Andres Garcia), he makes the fatal mistake of trusting the American government. Seeking our help after murdering his corrupt underground boss, Carlos seeks refuge from the CIA but instead finds only further corruption. Forced to cater to their bloody demands for the return of his kidnapped family, this time Carlos is waging a personal war against two enemies, as well as the dark fury of his soul.

The premise is set up with vigor. Especially nice touches are the themes of moral ambiguity, particularly where duty to family is compared/contrasted/exploited with the cold, non-emotional practice of murdering for profit. Extremely satisfying is the movie's unapologetic depiction of the CIA as a legal sort of mob family, hiding behind respectability and a corrupt power no less foul (in fact, a bit worse) than the criminal underworld. A man with no friends, Carlos is rather like a 'Man With No Name' from spaghetti western formula, except that he's the one being played, and can only walk down the path of vengeance, evil, and execution that has been chosen for him. That the violence Carlos commits are for the safety of his family - violence for love - adds further scope to the plot.

As low on extras as the movie is high on action sequences, the picture is serviceable but laced with grain. The sound betrays a low hissing below the dialogue. Featuring trailers and some bios, this unremarkable if entertaining and solidly made feature perhaps deserved a bit better treatment. One last note: while the stunt set ups, editing, and look of the film itself are not polished, this lack of Hollywood glamour brings a certain degree of realism to the already gritty story. Fast-paced, Carlos the Terrorist takes itself seriously. Solid lead performance, violent motivation, and a decidedly (and admirable) amoral stance make it a lean, white-knuckled punch.

Review by William P Simmons

Released by VCI
Region All NTSC
Not Rated
Extras : see main review