After taking on her last contract, she is fatally poisoned and left with only 24 hours to live. Kate, who has made a living for herself as a brutally skilled assassin, decides to use the time she has left to track down and take out the individuals responsible.
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who is responsible for the highly forgettable film (2018) The Huntsman: Winter’s War, undertakes the new Netflix original action-thriller Kate. With writer Umair Aleem (Extraction, Mile 22) beside Troyan, the two attempt to create a film with an extremely straightforward plot, aiming to avoid any confusion that can come with subplots. But the execution of this linear narrative falls flat, as the film vaguely explains how Kate was introduced to this assassin world, implementing out-of-place flashbacks as a way to make up for the lack of character exposition. Nearly all of the film seems to dodge any glimpse of rich storytelling, yearning to push past dialogue-heavy scenes so as to get to the action as quickly as possible, distracting the audience from the myriad of problems the film has to offer.
Style over substance is the main theme it seems, with a narrative so hallow and carelessly written, you feel absolutely detached from the characters we’re meant to be concerned for. But as for the style of Kate, it’s remarkably refreshing. The plethora of ruthless fights plastered throughout the film come as a delightful surprise, due to the beautiful choreography. The excellent work from the stunt team behind Kate does not go unnoticed, and the coupled cinematography by Lyle Vincent works hand in hand, flowing together masterfully. It comes as an absolute shock seeing how well shot and choreographed the entirety of this film is, with long takes letting audiences take in every punch and kick being thrown. Though, the violence used during said fights feel a bit ridiculous at times, with a laughable amount of blood and limbs thrown around in just one scene can be a bit much to take seriously at times.
And luckily, there is more to like about this film other than the technical sophistication throughout. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate, and she plays her undoubtedly well. Taking on as much stunt work as possible, showing how credible she is as a badass protagonist. Winstead proves she can hold her own, displaying on multiple occasions that she is more than a mistress in distress. It is an absolute joy to watch Winstead dispose of henchmen onscreen in a realistic manner, and also remaining consistent with her character’s injuries and state of mind. The dynamic between Winstead and Miku Martineau who plays Ani, the niece of Kate’s prime target, plays out decently. Interesting chemistry and acceptably written plot development between the two characters. Each member of the cast plays their part well, with Woody Harrelson playing the same and fun Woody Harrelson and Jun Kunimura as the main antagonist, delivering a convincing performance.
With writing and direction so dubious and tasteless, the film is fortunate enough to use Lyle Vincents’ talent as a cinematographer to the fullest. Featuring the streets of a colorful Tokyo in wide-angle shots, and the continuous takes dragging us through tight alleyways to convey the anxiety our protagonist is experiencing as she faces her final hours. Bright neon signs bleed color onto our characters expressing the mood and tone of the film during each still, and although there are some scenes that feel they are pulled straight out of a video game with its cartoonish segments, it gives a unique and refreshing visual aspect.
Lately, mainstream action films seem to have detracted from the usual choppy fight scenes and have adopted the long take. It’s clear Kate and the choreographers involved took qualities of Chad Stahelski’s John Wick and the franchise’s well-shot fight scenes and decided to use a variation. The result is appreciated, but the underwhelming and bland script provided drags so much of the positives down the gutter. The predictable plot and repetitive dialogue, along with the lack of emotional tension pieced together make for a B-class action film. And although Vincent and the stunt team work smoothly together, and hit their marks, Troyan and Aleem can’t seem to pull anything special and instead push a cheap melodramatic moment out of nowhere to try and make up for the fact they’ve provided an uninteresting film that stretches on for nearly 2 hours.
For the most part, Kate is a film for those looking for a violent and entertainingly decent time and if you can forget about the insufferable script, you’re in for a good time. However, the lack of capable storytelling worsens the few good characteristics that attempt to relieve the glaringly obvious flaws. A crew and cast with great potential, it’s a shame the writing was unable to keep up and help deliver an interesting and memorable installment in the action-thriller genre.