Time: 106 Minutes
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate
Miku Martineau as Ani
Woody Harrelson as Varrick
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Slipped a fatal poison on her final job, a ruthless Tokyo assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has less than 24 hours to find out who ordered the hit and exact revenge.
I heard about Kate leading up to its release. I knew that it was going to be an action thriller starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead which was going to be released on Netflix. Despite being sceptical of action movies with known actors put on streaming services, I was somewhat interested in this one, I thought it looked pretty good from the trailers. Kate is yet another serviceable assassin centred action thriller which has its issues, but was better than expected.
As expected, the writing is the worst part of the movie. The story is by the numbers, and it is very familiar and formulaic. It has its fair share of tropes and plot devices you’ve seen countless times. It’s also quite predictable, even some of the main reveals are easy to see coming. With that being said, it is thankfully paced fast enough and with enough urgency, especially given that the premise is about the main character only having a day left to live. The dialogue isn’t the best and it can be awkward, especially whenever the movie tries to throw in the odd moment of humour. The story to a degree had some depth, the main characters have backstories to them, and it feels like some effort was put into them. Unfortunately, the drama and emotion aren’t quite as well executed as they could’ve been. Some plot beats that should resonate feel undercooked. A big part of the movie is a relationship between Kate and a girl she’s trying to protect named Ani. This is meant to be the heart of the film, but their relationship isn’t given enough time or development. The third act gets even more formulaic and feels a little rushed as it races towards a climax, despite being entertaining for what it was. I enjoyed Kate for its 1 hour and 46-minute runtime, but I think it could’ve been a bit better if it was around 90 minutes long.
If you need only one reason to check out Kate, it is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. In the lead role, she pretty much carries the whole movie. The writing for the character is pretty thin, but MEW makes the part great, delivering a commanding central performance and being such an on screen presence. She even gave more than the character needed, conveying a certain vulnerability, urgency and sadness I didn’t expect. And of course, there’s the action scenes where she is particularly impressive, she uses pretty much anything as a weapon and the stunts are very convincing. At the same time, she is also shown to be vulnerable, she doesn’t come out of these fight scenes and gun battles unscathed. The rest of the supporting cast are a bit of a mixed bag. One notable character is that of Ani, the child that Kate has to protect throughout much of the movie, played by Miku Martineau. I mentioned that the relationship between the two doesn’t work well enough, but there’s issues even on her as a character alone. Ani is grating and annoying to watch, and while I get that she’s intentionally annoying, her character doesn’t seem to learn or change at all. It’s a shame considering that her character is what ultimately gives Kate a significant purpose, so it’s unfortunate that this key character wasn’t exactly handled the best. There are also some solid supporting turns from Woody Harrelson and Jun Kunimura. Speaking of Harrelson, he is good here, but his character feels very much like a copy of others seen before. He gets very little screentime and the role could’ve been played by any character actor.
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is the director, and for the most part I liked his work here. Much of the visuals and action are taken from the likes of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, but I still liked what was here. I really enjoyed the style and the visuals, especially the use of colour and neon. The cinematography and lighting also added a lot to the fight scenes. Speaking of which, the action scenes are part of the reason why the movie works. The action is striking and intense, it’s brutal and gory and doesn’t hold back at all. The choreography is solid, and some scenes are genuinely impressive. The only action scene that wasn’t that good was a bad looking CGI car sequence early on, aside from that I was quite entertained by the action set pieces.
Kate isn’t anything special and it has its issues. The story and writing are very familiar and derivative, and some of its drama and emotional aspects are a bit undercooked and needed more work for it to resonate. With that said, it was visually stunning, the action is intense and great to watch, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic in the lead role, making this movie worth checking out. I really enjoyed it.