CAST: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Michiel Huisman, Tadanobu Asano, Jun Kunimura, Miyavi, Kazuya Tanabe
RUNNING TIME: 106 mins
BASICALLY…: After being injected with a lethal poison, an assassin (Winstead) uses what little time she has left to hunt down those responsible…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Why is it that assassins in movies always seem to grow a conscience the moment that a child unexpectedly enters the crosshairs? I get that it’s supposed to humanise the assassin to an extent for the audience’s sake, but a trained killer like the titular character in Kate should be expected to completely cut off their emotions if they’re to be any good at their job; sure, it might make them sociopathic, but at least they’d get the job done, and they’d also avoid that particular cliché.
Sadly, it’s one of many, many clichés that Kate, from director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, functions with, resulting in a formulaic action movie that contains few surprises and the occasional cool moment.
Set in Japan, Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is an assassin who swiftly takes out her targets on the orders of her handler, Varrick (Woody Harrelson). Her aforementioned run-in with a child comes when she takes out a target in Osaka right by the side of his daughter, Ani (Miku Martineau). Ten months later, Kate is contemplating retirement, but after a brief hook-up with a handsome man (Michiel Huisman, wasted in the handful of scenes he’s in) she discovers that she has been poisoned with a lethal dose of radioactive polonium, leaving her with less than 24 hours to live. Rather than get her affairs in order, Kate sets out into the streets of Tokyo to find who’s responsible for her fatal poisoning, which leads her to numerous run-ins with the yakuza and also Ani, the niece of a leading yakuza figure, with whom she forms a bond during her final hours.
There’s not too much to say about Kate, because nearly everything it has to offer is stuff that has been done in many other female-led assassin movies, or even just assassin movies in general. The action scenes, the characters, the dialogue, even the neon-drenched cinematography: nearly all of it you’ve seen before, in much better movies whether it’s Léon or Atomic Blonde or John Wick or The Matrix. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan delivers the clichés with outstanding blandness, his film lacking a certain energy and investment which you need in order to care about what’s going on and who it’s happening to, but you don’t because you’re just not interested in the characters, or the predictable plot. It takes mere seconds to guess who the real villain is (hint: it’s the second-most prolific actor on the cast sheet), which puts you leagues ahead of the protagonist, and characters who you should be invested in are either archetypes of typical assassin movie leads, or annoyingly useless for the majority of their screen-time.
Watching Kate, you’re always reminded of the numerous movies that it is borrowing far too heavily from, which you’d much rather be watching instead of this one. That said, there are a couple of moments when the film does switch on, albeit briefly, like a badass character entrance or a deadly use of finger-guns, but they’re gone as quickly as they arrive, and you’re left with the entirely derivative script that’s executed just as blandly, which you feel as though you’re watching out of obligation instead of for genuine entertainment. It is sad to call this dull, because in a way you do want this movie to succeed, whether it’s with the performances or the cinematography which can look nice at times drenched underneath all of that Tokyo neon, but dull it is, and by the climax finally does peek around the corner it’s far too late to get invested in anything that it’s borrowing and passing off as its own.
It’s just too derivative of an assassin thriller to enjoy as its own thing, so you’d be better off if you kept scrolling through Netflix to find a more interesting example than Kate.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Kate is a blandly derivative assassin thriller which contains far too many familiar elements from similar movies to leave enough of its own impression, leaving you with a predictable plot, archetypical characters, and aside from the occasional cool moment some rather underwhelming action sequences.