“Kate” is the most laughably predictable thriller since the silent film era. We know where it’s going the instant it starts. We know what the hack screenwriter used for his mashup — “D.O.A./Crank” meets “The Professional.” We know the rancid cheese dialogue by heart before anybody utters a word of it.
The lady assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has “one simple rule, no kids.”
Her handler, the guy who “groomed” her for this work (Woody Harrelson), has his cliches memorized — “Not your first rodeo…collateral damage” yadda yadda yadda.
She wants “a life, a real regular life.” She wants to “finish the job, and then I’m out.”
His jokes — “picket fences…suburbs” are older than he is.
And it’s all downhill from that opening scene.
Visual effects artist turned director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan — he did VFX for “Snow White and the Huntsman” and got to direct the “Huntsman” sequel nobody saw — and screentypist Umair Aleem (“The Extraction”) make the most of the movie’s most arresting element, its Japanese setting.
We see Noh theater performed (to no audience), yakuza and geishas and J-pop and lurid blacklit nightclubs and neon-drenched streets and a tall, willowy American hit-woman who doesn’t stand out. Oh no, not at all.
In one glorious moment, after Kate has botched an assignment because she’s got the shakes from the Putin-approved poison somebody slipped her, she makes her escape in the most conspicuous getaway car this side of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.
The whole movie’s like this. She’s an assassin captured by the cops and hospitalized after wrecking that garishly painted and lit tuner/hoonigan getaway car. And she wakes up with no cops present.
She has just enough time to get her “24 hours to live” diagnosis, make a plan and start her escape before the first J-cops show up. It’s pretty much the last we see of them.
Kate must chase and catch and threaten and kill her way to whoever ordered the hit on her.
Granted, she has no right to be offended. Because she MURDERS people for a living. But hey, we’re all a little self-righteous these days.
There’s a fouled-mouthy kid (Miku Patricia Martineau) and a lot of about-to-be-dead mobsters, a laundry list of them Kate must shoot, punch, stab, kick and head-butt her way through to get to whoever wanted this “revenge.”
She sickens every step of the way, and the kid — whom she kidnaps — speaks her mind in Janglish and American-accented curses.
“F— you, cancer b–ch!”
Winstead and/or her stuntperson handle a little parkour and a whole lot of fight choreography with a modicum of ease. No, the supermodel physics of such movies never computes. It hasn’t since “La Femme Nikita” or its Hollywood cover, “Point of No Return.” But Winstead rarely lets us see enough to say “No WAY SkinnyKiller could manage that.”
But the movie? It’s not much fun, and not particularly gripping. The opening scene tells us pretty much everything to come — the kill, the “kid,” the fatal misstep — all of it.
That just leaves Tokyo at night. And as luridly arresting as that can be, it’s just not enough, “Kate” or no “Kate.”
Rating: R, for strong violence and language (profanity) throughout
Cast: Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Patricia Martineau, Jun Kunimura, Miyavi and Woody Harrelson
Credits: Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, scripted by
Umair Aleem. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:48
It should be further noted that, while some of the Japanese settings (many walking distance from my house) are cool and nicely filmed, it’s very clear (even to an observant person who has never been to Asia) when they reach the point where they run out of location budget and repair to some studio in Los Angeles, where they recycle a bunch of Blade Runner sets. So much of this is cringe-inducingly fake and cliched or just wrong. The Noh performance, the pink car…it’s as if someone made a movie about the USA and icons like Uncle Sam and Paul Bunyan start appearing everywhere, and a rodeo suddenly breaks out in Times Square.
As an added bonus, many of the “Japanese” actors—including the bizarrely named Ani (which means “older brother”)—cannot really speak Japanese, and the dialog sounds as though it may have been written by Umair himself using Google Translate.
This is quite possibly the worst Hollywood treatment of Japan yet, and that’s saying something.
I don’t speak Japanese, but it did sound a trifle phonetic.
Any particular reason you had to refer to her as “lady” assassin? You’re telling on yourself and the real motivation behind your review.
Because such creatures are rare. Because it’s a genre unto itself. Because that’s the only reason you watched it.