Directed by: Tate Taylor
Premise: An assassin (Jessica Chastain) struggles to maintain her sobriety and returns to her hometown to reconnect with her family. The assassin’s employer deems her a threat and plots to killer her.
What Works: Ava is a competently executed super assassin action picture. The major attractions of a film like this are the action scenes and the cloak and dagger spy craft. The filmmakers do that pretty well. There is a standout sequence early on when the title character is assigned to execute a military officer at a gala event. Ava manipulates her target into a vulnerable position and when the job goes sideways she must shoot her way out. The gunplay is exciting and the scene establishes Ava as an efficient killer and a resourceful agent. The middle of the story alternates between familiar action movie scenarios and a domestic drama. Ava visits her family after a long absence and the contrast between her life as an assassin and her rocky relationships with her mother and sister add some fresh dimensions to the typical assassin character. The mother is played by Geena Davis and she and Jess Weixler and Jessica Chastain have a few authentically dysfunctional scenes together that fill in Ava’s background. It’s revealed that Ava is a recovering alcoholic and the filmmakers and actress Jessica Chastain effectively dramatize the struggle of sobriety.
What Doesn’t: Anyone familiar with assassin movies will find the action portions of Ava to be familiar. We’ve seen this movie before and Ava is certainly not the best version of it nor is it the worst. This is a mostly average exercise in the super assassin genre and Ava doesn’t offer much that is new. The few innovations that Ava does offer aren’t really pursued to their full potential. Early on it is revealed that Ava needs to believe that her targets were bad people and she previously had a mental breakdown. This implies that Ava has moral qualms about her job but little else is done with that struggle. In all the killing of the movie there is no hesitation or examination. Among the family drama there are a few unlikely or weird story developments such as Ava discovering that her ex-boyfriend (Common) is now in a relationship with her sister and the crime boss (Colin Farrell) comes after Ava himself rather than sending another contract killer. These unlikely scenarios undermine the movie’s credibility.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Ava is an average super assassin action picture. The movie is distinguished by a few character details and it does its genre well enough but this is fundamentally the same story that action aficionados have seen before.
Episode: #831 (December 20, 2020)