Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Tadanobu Asano, Michiel Huisman, Jun Kunimura, Miyavi, Amelia Crouch, Ava Caryofyllis, Mari Yamamoto, and Kayuza Tanabe.
A female assassin has 24 hours to get vengeance on her murderer before she dies.
Already at a disadvantage for having a cookie-cutter script of Japanese crime and betrayal, Kate (as a character and a movie from director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan) is also saddled with a contrived plot set up that makes no logical sense on the part of the Yakuza villains. As retribution for picking off high-ranking numbers one by one as a career assassin, Kate (played with resilient ferocity by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is tricked into consuming a poison that will slowly kill her over 24 hours. If I were involved with the Yakuza and wanted a lethal lifetime killer dead through poisoning, I wouldn’t choose a specific kind that allows more than enough time for her to figure out what’s happening and enact her own revenge before crossing over another life.
It would also be possible to overlook such a nonsensical plot device if Kate was going for preposterous and bonkers chaos (something like Crank), but here is a story much more grounded into this lifestyle she never had a choice of joining in the first place. Kate’s handler is a man named Varrick (a seemingly bored Woody Harrelson). He is also her family, bringing her into the fold and raising her as a guardian following some tragic incident with her biological parents. The details aren’t dived into, and they don’t need to be, as it’s clear that Varrick is an opportunistic molder of killers, preying on vulnerable and lost souls. Nevertheless, they trust each other and forge a path for themselves with him as her mentor and surrogate father.
It becomes apparent that the quickest way to the Yakuza leader (Jun Kunimura) is through his niece Ani (newcomer Miku Patricia Martineau, succeeding at foul-mouthed and rebellious spunk). Her father is also the man Kate murdered ten months ago with a rifle from afar right in front of Ani’s eyes. Anyway, they reveal themselves to find Ani dispensable, halfheartedly coming to her rescue. It grants the gaijin (foreigner) the opportunity to kill lots of evil Yakuza henchmen with an assortment of headshots and violent stabbings, sometimes set to Japanese pop music or surrounded by neon Tokyo lights. The final stretch also sees a bloodied and battered Kate (the makeup work done on Mary Elizabeth Winstead, presenting someone sicker and more bruised after nearly every scene is one of the only bright spots here) wearing a Japanese cat T-shirt, so the film is undoubtedly taking advantage of its setting but unquestionably in a hollow way.
Of course, even with its twist of a Western villain (something that’s easy to see coming from the beginning of the movie), Kate is still a misguided white savior action piece punctuating every sequence of stylized combat (a couple of the fights here are impressive) with an awkward feeling. Beyond that, nearly every plot point here (the script comes courtesy of Netflix’s Extraction writer Umair Aleem, which explains a lot about the negatives here) is basic and predictable. I don’t consider myself that skilled or prideful when figuring out plot beats ahead of time, but I had nearly all of Kate figured out within the first 15 minutes or so, which is a telling and overwhelming sign of laziness in the script department.
That’s frustrating because there are some amusing and resonant back-and-forth dialogue exchanges between Kate and Ani, with the latter coming to terms with her family tossing her aside while simultaneously and misguidedly finding a role model in the assassin protecting her, under the impression that Kate marches to her own drum and answers to no one when in reality her whole life was stolen. The shootouts and bone-breaking hand-to-hand combat are also visceral with nice visual flourishes (there are plenty of rotating camera perspectives, overhead shots, and blood splattering all over pristine white surfaces), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead assuredly puts in the work to make those sequences believably hard-hitting and moderately exciting. There is just also no way any of that could ever be enough to mitigate such a bare-bones, formulaic, dry, and ill-advised story.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com