Directed by: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Premise: An assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is fatally poisoned. With just hours to live, she aims to kill the crime boss responsible for her impending death and takes the gangster’s niece (Miku Patricia Martineau) under her wing.
What Works: In the past few years there has been a surge of movies about assassins and gunmen such as John Wick and Atomic Blonde and The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Gunpowder Milkshake. Kate is another addition to this genre and the film is distinguished by its color and energy. This film is set in Japan and the filmmakers use aspects of Japanese popular culture to give the movie a specific look. Kate is highly stylized with strong neon colors and fluid camerawork that give the movie a surreal quality. But the violence is very organic and occasionally gross with the title character suffering injuries and her body reacting to the poison. The contrast between the style and the content makes Kate a vivid viewing experience. The film also has a weird tone that works for it. The filmmakers use of Japanese pop culture, and especially teen girl culture, gives Kate an off-kilter sense of humor. The title role is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and she is very good. Her character is a killer and Winstead is convincing; like many recent shoot-’em-up movies, Kate features a lot of elaborate fight scenes in which the lead actress does many of her own stunts. But Kate experiences a crisis of conscience and throughout the movie she passes through a satisfying redemption arc. That redemption occurs through her relationship with a teenager played by Miku Patricia Martineau. The assassin and the teenager relate antagonistically at first but the change in their relationship is mostly credible and gives the film a humanistic quality that distinguishes this movie.
What Doesn’t: The overall premise of Kate is one we’ve seen before. As in Leon: The Professional and Gunpowder Milkshake an assassin is paired with a teenage girl and the killer is softened by her charge. Kate does this formula well but the movie doesn’t add much to it and there are no narrative surprises here. The plot of Kate is mostly episodic. It follows the structure of a video game with Kate arriving at a location, fighting her way to the level boss, vanquishing him, and then moving onto the next target. The idea is that she’s killing her way up the yakuza hierarchy but there’s little sense of escalation although the climax does have an effective reversal of expectation.
DVD extras: Currently on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Kate is a satisfying shoot-’em-up actioner. The story consists of things we’ve seen before but the film is distinguished by its energy and humor and the likable pairing of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Miku Patricia Martineau.
Episode: #869 (September 19, 2021)