The fundamental problem with any action pic starring Jason Momoa is who can you credibly cast that one could reasonably expect to bring down the Man Mountain?
Making his character a mixed martial artist in “Sweet Girl” just compounds that problem.
It’s a nonsensical thriller whose RIDICULOUS third act twists finish the job that its “reduced expectations” opening moments set us up for.
Getting Momoa to wade through a couple of pages of voice-over narration is a serious misuse of his talents. He’s not a natural at it.
“As the years pass, we realize we are nothing more than the experiences that make us.”
OK, there’s the REAL problem. This dog is on the screenwriters — Philip Eisner, Scott Hurwitz and Will Staples.
It’s a topical tale about Big Pharma skullduggery and lives discarded in its eagerness to put profits over humans. In this case, the lengths such entities go to include hiring kill teams along with the usual buying and selling politicians.
Momoa plays Ray, a Pittsburgh husband and Dad who is losing his wife (Adria Arjona) to cancer. A life-saving experimental drug that was about to come out as a generic was halted.
Ray ends up on the phone on a CNN chat show involving the smug, callous Martin Shkreli clone (Justin Bartha) who made that decision.
“If my wife dies, it’s YOUR death sentence,” Ray threatens. “I will hunt you down and kill you with my bare hands.”
Yes, his wife dies, and no, the FBI doesn’t come knocking at his door. But a reporter calls, draws Ray into a meeting and that’s where he runs afoul of the first hitman (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) who logically shouldn’t be able to take even one Momoa haymaker. There will be others.
Ray and daughter Rachel (Isabela Merced of “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”) are on the lam in his rusty ’72 Cutlass, the most conspicuous get-away car in Western Pennsylvania.
The plot, which has run through three timeframes by this point (Ray and others training Rachel in MMA), unravels from there. Dad gets in fights, Rachel gets in the way, and then passes judgment on what it is they’re doing.
“So all the values you taught me growing up are out the window?”
Merced throws herself into this, despite the fight physics that precludes her character’s ability to clobber guys twice her size.
Before “Aquaman” made him the star that “Conan” did not, Momoa acquitted himself well in plenty of B-pictures like this — “Road to Paloma,” “Wolves,” “Braven” — and brute force roles in “Game of Thrones,” “Frontier” and the like on TV.
The occasional decently-staged fight or grace note here stands out, because there aren’t many. A story this badly constructed with dialogue this stilted and characters this thin is simply beneath Momoa, at this stage.
Filling your down time between “Aquaman” appearances, and “Dune,” with a movie scripted by the hack who did “Event Horizon” isn’t a smart play.
Rating: R, for strong violence, some profanity
Cast: Jason Momoa, Isabela Merced, Raza Jaffrey, Amy Brenneman, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona, Lex Scott Davis and Justin Bartha
Credits: Directed by Brian Andrew Mendoza, scripted by Philip Eisner and Gregg Hurwitz. A Netflix release.