Posts Tagged ‘Mary Elizabeth Winstead’

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

“KATE” My rating: B (Netflix)

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

If Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” and the noir classic “D.O.A.” had a baby, it would look a lot like “Kate,” a lean, sleek female-centric actioner from director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan that arrives with a bang, knocks your socks off for 90 minutes, and leaves you limp but weirdly invigorated.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead portrays our title character, an orphan (think “La Femme Nikita”) trained in the arts of assassination by an untrustworthy father figure (Woody Harrellson) and turned loose to do the dirty work of the Yakuza families of Tokyo.

Early on Kate passes out while driving; she awakens in a hospital where (like Edmund O’Brien in “D.O.A.”) she’s informed that she has ingested a lethal dose of radioactive material. She’s got maybe 24 hours.

She’ll use that time to ruthlessly hunt down her poisoner, a high-ranking gangster who believes she knows too much to be allowed to retire. Along the way she’ll kidnap the guy’s teenage granddaughter (Miku Patricia Martineau), who over the course of a long night morphs from entitled brat to Kate’s Girl Friday and avenging mini-angel.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Patricia Martineau

“Kate” doesn’t require an actress as talented as Winstead (check out her exemplary work on the second season of “Fargo” and the criminally underappreciated political/horror spoof “BrainDead”). Mostly she has to look good with a gun…mission accomplished.

But Winstead imbues her relentless killer with very human moments and frailties. After a while it’s positively painful to watch her radiated body fall apart before our eyes; yet our girl always finds the superhuman strength to take on one more bad guy.

And the fight scenes…wow. They come with clockwork regularity and have the furious intensity of a John Wick confrontation. Guns, knives, swords, feet, knuckles…Kate employs them all to leave behind a long trail of dead Yakuza.

The film is crammed with little homages to other movies: “Kill Bill” (a nightclub with an all-girl band, a duel with samurai swords, a deadly schoolgirl), “Aliens” (Kate chops off her hair into a mayhem-friendly Ripley ‘do), “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (the adolescent sidekick) and a slew of others.

Plus the Japanese players have been cast for their unique facial features. Talk about a passle of memorable mugs.

Director Nicolas-Troyan is the guy behind the “Snow White” franchise, which I’ve found visually interesting and dramatically inert. But here he boils things down to pure movement — there’s a nighttime shootout involving dozens of gunmen, all armed with laser-equipped automatic weapons, and the ballet of zig-zagging light beams, bloody eruptions and shattering glass is like nothing I’ve seen before.

“Kate” doesn’t go deep, but it is unquestionably the most satisfying of the recent crop of tough-girl action films. Just enjoy the ride.

| Robert W. Butler

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