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Film Review: “Kate” Is a Killjoy

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | September 9th, 2021

Film poster: “Kate”

Kate (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, 2021) 1 out of 4 stars.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (All About Nina) and Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen) are both actors of proven talent and charm, yet neither of them prove up to the challenge of Kate. Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) from a script by Umair Aleem (Extraction), the film is a cinematic dead end, its premise and plot points trite and its conclusion preordained. Worse, it is mostly humorless, piling dread upon dread despite the appearance of a wisecracking teen (Miku Patricia Martineau) halfway through. I half expected a furry CGI sidekick to that sidekick to show up. At least we were spared that horror.

Right from the get-go, there’s trouble. The titular assassin (Winstead) almost blows a hit when she sees that the target is accompanied by a child. Sending her off to do the deed, her handler, Varrick (Harrelson), makes sure to clue the audience in to his potential double-dealings with a wink and nudge for our sake. But no, he’s decent, and off they go, the gory job done. Cut to 10 months later.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in KATE ©Netflix

Did I mention they are in Japan? Not that it matters, for other than some yakuza-driven story nonsense, we could be anywhere for all the use the movie makes of its location. Osaka, Tokyo, what’s the difference? More importantly, why should we care? Anyway, back to business. But no! Kate wants out of the business. Shooting people in the head is one thing, but do it front of a kid? No way! It turns out, via laborious flashbacks, that she has some not-so-buried trauma from her past that makes her particularly sensitive to children in the middle of violence.

There is time for last kill, however, and prior to that one good shag. Unfortunately, that date poisons her, and now she only has 24 hours to live. And if she’s going to die, then so is everyone else. Wham, bam, shoot me ma’am! Or punch me or slice me or something worse. And on it goes. Winstead actually makes for a decent-enough action star, but since her moves are only about mayhem and bone crunching, it’s hard to stay focused.

l-r: Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Miku Patricia Martineau in KATE ©Netflix

It’s not like we haven’t seen this kind of film before, with men doing it. Then again, at this point in the 21stcentury, we’ve also seen plenty of women kicking major butt, too. In fact, some of the producers of this disaster also worked on Atomic Blonde, which is hardly a masterpiece but far better than Kate. There, Charlize Theron’s antics had a design. Here, they don’t even have a plan, just a sad imitation of one. Goodbye, Kate! We hardly knew you …

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is a former cohost of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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