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Kate (2021) – Review: A Decent Action Film That Lacks a Personality

September 19, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade C – Kate is an entertaining action film that lacks a personality. It’s cool seeing Mary Elizabeth Winstead wipe people out (there’s a lot of gore), but everything feels too familiar, and the tone pinballs all over as the movie bounces between serious and wildly stylish.

Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Huntsman: Winter War), Kate tells the story an assassin named Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is recruited by a handler named Varrick (Woody Harrelson), and trained to murder high-level targets with a massive sniper rifle. During a routine mission, she murders a yakuza syndicate member in front of a child, and this pushes her to retire after one more job. During her final job, she’s poisoned, and only has 24 hours to kill all the people who were dumb enough to poison her. Her night/day of mayhem brings her across Yakuza killers, crime bosses who enjoy fish pedicures, and a kid named Ani (Miku Martineau) who she uses to lure out Yakuza boss Kijima (Jun Kunimura). Through the course of her bloody rampage, she bonds with Ani, and she goes from using her as bait, to being her protector as they travel further through the violent Japanese underground loaded with neon lights and J-Pop,

What keeps Kate from being special is that it feels like Crank, 24 Hours to Live, Gunpowder Milkshake, The Professional and John Wick got together, and blended themselves into a movie that features an assassin/thief finding trouble during their last job. There’s nothing wrong with paying homage to other films, and films have been borrowing from each other since movies existed, however, the most successful copiers have been confident in their tone, and played like a singular film. There are highly stylized moments (slow motion walking while wearing cheeky white sunglasses) that stick out like a sore thumb, and don’t feel organic to the movie because the movie’s tone isn’t stylish. It’s not like Gunpowder Milkshake, Netflix’s much better 2021 action film, which takes place in a highly-stylized world full of pink cardigans, bowling jackets and brutal murder. Gunpowder Milkshake gets away with its creative violence because it takes place in an alternate reality where the stylish violence makes sense.

As a Netflix action film, Kate is fine, but if you are looking for a singular vision that feels unique and new, stay away from Kate. There is no joy in the violence, and the film wastes an interesting performance from Winstead, who plays Kate like an old version of the T-800 (she’s called the Terminator in the movie), that is falling apart as her ultraviolent sprees cause her to lose teeth, get stabbed, and puke a lot. Let’s hope that another director sees this movie, and puts Winstead in an action film that is less clunky and serious.

Final thoughts Kate is worth watching for the central performance, and the insane amount of gore, but it will most likely remind you of much better movies.

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