KATE proves Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a bona fide action heroine!
Anchored by an exceptional performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and chemistry between the three leads, KATE stands out from other organized crime shoot-em-ups. French director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Hunstman: Winter’s War) depicts brutal action scenes that are not overly stylized like many action films of late. The audience feels every wound Kate sustains, which paints her as a vulnerable but tough heroine. The shoot-outs and fight scenes themselves are well-shot. They’re entertaining to watch without becoming tedious. The cinematography and camera work deserve praise here.
The film takes place in Japan, and the conflict between East vs. West is a central theme. Kate, while fluently alternating between English and Japanese, is always treated as an intruder. According to a henchman she, “has no business in [our] home.” The elder Yakuza leaders abhor the Western ways of killing and consuming without end, leaving nothing left. All in the name of “good business.”
What sets this Netflix film apart from other action films is the tragedy behind it all.
This isn’t about eye candy or sex. Kate was very obviously trafficked into becoming an assassin. In this way, KATE is a more in-depth look at the trafficking behind films like Black Widow. She also has only one day left to live and set things right against the people who turned on her.
Dramatic irony also unfolds as Kate takes Ani-chan (Miku Martineau) as a protégé/partner while knowing full well she was responsible for her father’s assassination. This approach is mirrored in Varrick’s trafficking of traumatized young girls into his ‘system.’ It is a brutal cycle, the method the older Yakuza bosses, men who hold honor above all, look down on. Think of this as Crank meets John Wick. But, of course, there are other homages as well. Indeed, a white actress playing an assassin in Tokyo would draw controversy. Especially after the Scarlett Johannsson/Ghost in the Shell debacle from a few years ago. It also doesn’t help that Kate dresses like Major from Ghost in the Shell in nearly every scene. I believe that is open to interpretation, whether it was an homage to the original or a wink to the controversy
When the predictable third act twists start happening, that’s when the film full of promise starts its fall from grace. Kate wears her plot armor as long as she can until she can take out the real villain.
Netflix’s brand new action crime drama is an original, suspenseful thrill ride! Winstead, Harrelson, and newcomer Miku Martineau ignite the screen! Despite a few tumbles into cliché territory, KATE is the fresh, original action content Netflix subscribers have been looking for!
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