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Kate Review: Is a Predictable and Dull Rehash of Better Action Movies

Kate has had enough of the assassination business. She prefers a basic way of living. One that does not require her being suave and murdering people simply because she has been assigned to do it. The precise and finely tuned assassin misses her target on her ‘final dance.’ Before she could even comprehend the implications, she finds herself in a hospital after being poisoned by fatal radiation that will slowly kill her in 24 hours.

To make sense of things, she decides to find out who is to blame for her coming death. Keeping herself steady with nebulizers that she injects every now and then, her task becomes increasingly complicated when things turn personal and she is forced to build a bond with the daughter of one of her last targets. Will Kate be able to exact her vengeance before the clock runs out? We all know the answers, but are we here solely for that reason?

When action films grasp their own heightened reality, they work. If the preceding description doesn’t make you think of the Jason Statham picture Crank (2006), I’m guessing you’re not a big lover of action movies in general, and the only reason you’re here is because you can’t decide what to watch on Netflix this weekend. Anyway, the reason that Crank’s B-movie thrills worked and resulted in a sequel Crank: High Voltage in 2009 was because directors Neveldine/Taylor were aware of how strange and over-the-top their plot was.

Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (Snow White and the Huntsman) is caught in the midst with Kate. He loses track of the juicy B-movie idea he is attempting to push forward while attempting to ground his assassin in some kind of emotional development. In doing so, he fails to do either. The picture simply devolves into a gradually tense vengeance thriller, complete with shoddy stunts and sloppy camera work.

Furthermore, the sudden rise of these stories about female assassins who are put in a position where they are expected to appear empowered and free from oppression is becoming monotonous. It worked for Lucy in 2014, but it’s tragic that in 2021, these empowering female fantasies are primarily authored by men. While there’s nothing obviously wrong with it, the masculine gaze here only understands two types of wrath, and they’re exploited here to exasperating effect.

The conspiracy and narrative of Kate, set in Tokyo and including the random participation of a Yakuza clan, are so mundane that you can see every step from miles away. The crux of the picture should have been a character-driven female action film that is well-versed in its protagonist. Cedric Nicolas-film, Troyan’s however, does not. This is one of those Filipino film riffs that takes advantage of its three-act structure to introduce the tension in the first act. Take, for example, the 2019 film Maria. The film forced us to watch an action film with little character development, making the film’s rather stunning feats seem pointless.

Kate, on the other hand, leaves the wonderful Mary Elizabeth Winstead in charge of a picture that never fully utilizes her talent. Kate isn’t really intriguing as a character, and she lacks any eccentricities that make her stand out. She does put on a cool-looking white sunglass and a cheerful t-shirt immediately before the last fight, but for the rest of the movie, one hopes she would lighten up.

Varrick, Kate’s trainer and handler, is played by Woody Harrelson. He is as generic as they come as her lone buddy and confidant. He appears immediately away, when Kate is on her conscience-awakening mission. His job is to introduce the target and give her her favorite ‘boom boom lemon’ drink before she starts on a murdering spree in the anime manner. He appears in the second and third acts, but we’re so tired and dusty by then that even Harrelson’s captivating voice won’t wake you up. His arc is very predictable and one-note, leaving us with a sense of disjunction that isn’t good for a thriller.

Miku Martineau, who plays Ani, is another important character in this story. The young actress makes her debut in what may have been an intriguing role to begin with. While she has a strong screen presence, the writing falls victim to the irritating-teenager-caught-in-the-crossfire stereotype. Her persona was designed to be a soother for Kate’s never-ending emotional outbursts and regrets. Instead, she simply observes the proceedings without interfering with them. I wouldn’t be wrong if I said you could remove her entirely from the film and it wouldn’t matter.

The cast also includes seasoned actors such as Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer) and Jun Kunimura from Japan (The Wailing). While Kunimura shines in a sequence, everyone else is a waste of time. There’s also an attempt to criticize westerners for indulging in a culture they don’t comprehend, but it’s so half-baked and merely passed on that it’s hard to detect.

Most of all, Kate is unoriginal and uninteresting. While it wears its major influences (other than the aforementioned Terminator and Kill Bill) like a badge of honor, it has no understanding of why such films work. The stoicism of its lead character does not suit its narrative, which is so incompetent and flaccid that, despite Winstead’s efforts, you can’t help but observe that it falls into the white-savior complex. It wouldn’t have mattered whether the action was slick or the plot was exciting. Unfortunately, it is just as tedious as everything else.

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Kate Review: Is a Predictable and Dull Rehash of Better Action Movies
Kate Review: Is a Predictable and Dull Rehash of Better Action Movies
Kate Review: Is a Predictable and Dull Rehash of Better Action Movies
Kate Review: Is a Predictable and Dull Rehash of Better Action Movies
Kate Review: Is a Predictable and Dull Rehash of Better Action Movies
Kate Review: Is a Predictable and Dull Rehash of Better Action Movies

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