Kate |CPE

Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Screenplay Umair Aleem
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Jun Kunimura

Kate is a joyless, but technically proficient film about a professional killer (Winstead) who’d been groomed from a young age by her protoge V (Harrelson). After a hit at the beginning goes against her rule (no kids can be present) she begins to unwind. Eleven months later, she tells V that this upcoming hit will be her last. She’s right, though not for the reasons she thinks.

The kid (Martineau) is Ani, the daughter of the ultimate target crime boss Kijima (Kunimura). Kate killed Ani’s father in front of her, She doesn’t know Kate had anything to do it by the time she finally meets her, halfway through the second act. By this point, Kate has just saved her from becoming a victim of inter-mob family fighting. That doesn’t matter, however. Kate is going to be dead by day’s end.

If I were to tell you more about this plot, you’d know the whole story. It’s not that complicated. A tool in the game gets a little push out the door when she decides she wants out. Then she spends the rest of the film distributing the final solution to several of those protecting the people responsible. You know who is ultimately responsible if you have ever seen a movie about a hitman.

The key here is the performances. Winstead gives a solid and weary portrayal of someone who is trying to artificially boost her performance as she fights to stay alive before she succumbs to the fast acting cancer that has taken over her body. We know she will succeed, but it’s the way that she succeeds that is key.

It’s always a tough call watching films where women are action protagonists. There’s a certain level where leverage ends and camera tricks prevail. if one sees any person who weighs in at a buck twenty or lower throwing around guys twice their size, it’s going to set off the BS detector. Being fast, smart and ruthless really helps. This is something Winstead and company manage to pull off quite well.

The key to this fim is Martineau, who is someone that feels very recognizable, but is a newcomer. She has the same type of gravity as Kate, so their combination works for the short time they are together. It’s not necessarily the level of connection that Natalie Portman and Jean Reno reach in Leon: The Professional, but it works as an allegory for the past meeting the future.

The action is intense and nearly constant. For a Netfilx film, this one pushes the limits. Nicolas-Troyan has done a significant amount of camera and effects work in his career and it shows. We get to see Winslet’s Kate thrown around a bit, but she sure knows how to weild a gun, a knife or whatever else is handy.

None of this is played for laughs, and that is fine. It’s not necessarily supposed to be funny. The caliber of acting helps. I really enjoyed all four of the prominent players in the film, especially Martineau and Kunimura.

This is one of the few films that doesn’t feel like Netflix bought it off of the scrap heap, and it’s true. They developed this from a very rudimentary script and made it shine as nice as anything one might have seen in the theater. This film is one we’ve seen before, but somehow it’s still worth remembering on its own merits.

(**** out of *****)

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