“Kate” stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Michiel Huisman, and Tadanobu Asano. Released on Netflix on September 10, 2021, the film has an assassin racing against time when she’s been poisoned.
The film was directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who also directed “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”. He also provided visual effects for films like “The Weather Man” and “Snow White and the Huntsman”. When your life is on the line, the best way to save yourself is to fight your way to the top. Last weekend brought us another round of action, thrills, and girl power thanks to Netflix, and yes, it looks as simplistic as its premise. It is also the second directorial effort for visual effects artist Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, whose skills as a director weren’t quite as impressive as his visual creativity. While I was all right with his direction in “The Huntsman”, it wasn’t enough to make me want to put him on my film-watching map. However, I was willing to give him another chance since his film has two big names, Winstead and Harrelson, and some candy-coated action. Were they enough to make this Netflix thriller watchable, or was it as deadly as the poison in the main character’s veins? Let’s find out.
The story follows Kate (Winstead), an orphan raised by her mentor and handler Varrick (Harrelson) to be an assassin and expert sniper. She also follows a personal code to not kill in the presence of children, just to let the audience know that she’s not a monster. During her final mission, she discovers that she got acute radiation poisoning from a stranger she met last night. With only 24 hours to live, she sets out to find the person responsible for setting her up. Unsurprisingly, the film follows the traditional revenge-seeking plot that we’ve seen numerous times before. Instead of avenging someone like a loved one or a family member, the story has the titular character avenging herself due to her urgent condition. Movies like this have provided some tense sequences because of the main character’s survival against their opponents and their impending demise. Whether the story is good or not, they usually succeed in being enjoyable popcorn films to watch on a Friday night. “Kate” happens to belong in that category, but you’re not going to get that much else regarding its storytelling. It’s a formulaic revenge tale that relied on its familiar tropes, mainly the white savior in a foreign location element, and its inspiration from the Japanese action films. It’s simple to a fault, but it doesn’t take away from the film’s swift style, entertaining action, and vibrant visuals. While the characters themselves were as effortless as decapitating someone with a samurai sword, the cast did what they could to deliver some tolerable performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has once again proven herself to be a suitable action star thanks to her eye-popping portrayal of Kate. Winstead had the proper energy of a ruthless yet caring assassin in terms of her acting and stunt work. Woody Harrelson also delivered a decent performance as Varrick, and Miku Martineau did all right in her first film role as Ani, the niece of a Japanese crime boss. My only problem with Ani was that her humor felt forced in some moments, and Martineau’s chemistry with Winstead was pretty lackluster. Other than that, she was watchable. Another element I enjoyed was its action sequences. After what Nicolas-Troyan did with “The Huntsman”, I was pretty surprised to see that he actually made an effort to provide some style and brutality in the fight scenes. Yes, the camera work felt familiar to the “John Wick” films, but it showcased its choreography effectively without using the shaky cam maneuver and constant editing. Hopefully, we get more action films with this type of clarity. The scenes involving Kate driving the car and fighting the members of Sato were the highlights, mainly because of the choreography and Nicolas-Troyan’s direction. Both of these scenes were a batch of colorful bliss that’s feast-worthy for the eyes, even though everything else was nothing but a bland appetizer.
Overall, “Kate” is an uninspired female action thriller that’s visually impressive and nothing else. It should make for a fine watch for genre fans in terms of its cast and action. However, if you’re hoping for this to be the next action classic, you’ll probably feel like you’ve been poisoned yourself. Its formulaic story, average characters, and weak tropes may prevent this from gaining some repeated viewing. But if you don’t mind any of those flaws and want to have a butt-kicking good time, then, by all means, give it a watch.