Kate (2021) Review

The word “predictable” is best described for Netflix’s Kate, which starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the titular assassin. She is professionally trained under the mentorship of her father-figure Varrick (Woody Harrelson) since childhood. She is good at what she does and long story short, it was a matter of time before she plans to retire and wants to live a normal life. Of course, there’s always the obligatory “one last job” in most films involving assassins and Kate is no exception.

And that’s where her mission goes wrong after she fails to eliminate her latest target (Jun Kunimura’s Kijima). It turns out that she is being poisoned and she has about 24 hours to live. Instead of spending her time finding a cure, she chooses to locate and kill the person responsible for poisoning her in the first place. Complicating matters is Ani (Miku Martineau), the teenage daughter of a man that Kate killed earlier at the beginning of the film.

The plot involving an assassin with only a limited time to live is nothing new since we have seen this before in like-minded films such as Crank and 24 Hours to Live. Even if the story ventures into the familiar territory, it would be still forgivable as long as the film knows well how to keep us hooked with memorable characters and great action sequences.

Kate does have a standout lead character in the form of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is no stranger to playing a physically demanding role, having previously appeared as The Huntress in last year’s Birds of Prey. She certainly looks the part of the titular jaded assassin who got nothing to lose. And likewise, she handles the action part well enough no matter the way she single-handedly gunned down his enemies in John Wick-like fashion or engage in the fights that echoed the similarity to what Charlize Theron did in Atomic Blonde.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Miku Martineau in Netflix's "Kate" (2021) and

The action choreography even has the propulsive look and feel of the two aforementioned films, albeit only to a certain extent. This shouldn’t be a surprise anyway since David Leitch happens to serve as one of the film’s producers. There is one knife-and-gunfight scene that particularly impresses me the most — an elaborate moment where Kate takes down a few Yakuzas in a Japanese restaurant. Of course, not every action setpiece work well as expected and this can be evidently seen in the nighttime car chase earlier in the film. Instead of giving us something of an adrenaline rush, the aforementioned car chase looks as if it belongs to a video-game cutout scene.

Back to Winstead, she shares good chemistry with relative newcomer Miku Martineau of TV’s Finny the Shark. Individually, Martineau brings enough charisma to her role as Ani but it’s quite a pity that the rest of the supporting cast including screen veterans Woody Harrelson and Jun Kunimura are all sadly underwritten characters.

The film also suffered from an erratic pace, complete with expository-heavy moments that could have benefitted with some serious trimmings (the 106-minute length does overstay its welcome). Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who was last seen helming The Huntsman: Winter’s War in 2016 mostly does a workmanlike job here. But other times, his direction tends to be awfully pedestrian. I wonder if David Leitch would have directed this film himself instead, the result might be better than expected.

Kate is currently streaming on Netflix.

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