A late-night search for something to watch on Netflix lead me to Kate. The 2021 production by Netflix starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Did it blow me away, or did it poison me with the same old same old?
Kate is an assassin and is sent to Osaka to kill a man and almost refuses because a child is there but still goes through with it. Ten months later, she is still haunted by the death and wants out. One night she is poisoned and given only twenty-four hours to live. She tries to find her executioner.
The plot itself is formulaic and is so unoriginal it sticks to the same point of conflict as any other assassin movie. I know many a time in a review I’ve said nothing is original. However, whenever I’ve said that there’s still been a significant subversion for vigil, it was set on a submarine, involved the scots, had a power dynamic with people in power, and didn’t blame the Russians LGBTQ+ representation is excellent. However, I can’t point out any significant changes that make it worth watching in terms of narrative with this one.
It has the air and spectacle of it being new and fresh, but it’s nothing new.
- An assassin is caught up in the ghost of a kill. Check
- Wants out check
- Gets offed check
- Tries to get revenge check
- Befriends the person close to killing check
- Ally was the one to kill them check
- Gets a conscience check
The only subversive difference is Kate dies. Don’t get me wrong, that’s great. The plot finally changed something (woohoo Finally!), but it isn’t enough to compare it to how much it follows.
Changes to plot
I can think of several changes right now. Why not make the assassin an unapologetic killer who is happy to keep going and is mad the organisation is trying to kill them? Can’t we have the assassin we follow throughout the movie, which is unapologetically evil, be hunted and killed by the bad guys who are good? Why not make them be an assassin with a family who doesn’t lose them all?
Or have the person work for the bad guys but fight their way out of the system. It would’ve been something different, at least.
For all the flack I give this movie, there are some excellent parts. The first being the setting it being set in Japan instead of America, gives us something new to look forward to, and it is nice seeing the streets and vendors around the place. It is a nice twist. I also like the use of Japanese music throughout. It keeps us in the setting and works harmoniously with the environment.
Whilst the film is predictable, I will say the acting is outstanding in this film. For example, Verrick or V played by Woody Harrelson, plays Kate’s handler well. When he finds out she is dying, you see the shift in body language and his eyes look softer and ready to cry. The way the two characters interacts and the use of flashback makes you think they are close.
This superb acting, though, is a bit of a red herring. As you know, he’s betrayed, Kate. You guess that but because Harrelson does such an excellent job lulls you into this secure place of ‘he would never betray kate.’ so you go back to being blind-sighted and assuming the head of the Yakuza did it instead.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead also does a good job playing a pretty formulaic character. However, she manages to sell the effects of radiation poisoning well, so the circumstances are difficult whilst the character is cookie-cutter.
Method of assasination
Another thing, albeit a small thing, I appreciate, is the method of Kate’s poisoning. It isn’t a pill slipped into a drink killing her off or anything like that it is much more dangerous—radiation poisoning from Polonium-204. I appreciate the deadliness of it and that it’s something new. Which for this film is rarer than finding a fifty-pound note.
I think it works for the setting as well. As Japan has a bad history with atomic bombing and stuff like that, I guess I like the irony.
Another thing I appreciate is that the film got the symptoms of acute radiation poisoning correct, from losing teeth to excessive bleeding. It got it right. I like the fact that Kate is not infallible to this, and she gets weaker and weaker throughout the film, and whilst she is highly trained, she gets a bit less successful thanks to the radiation coursing throughout the body. I appreciate that the assassin in this story looks like utter trash throughout the movie its sets the standards right- although radiation poisoning is a bit drastic.
However, as much as I love the method. It exposes a huge plot hole with the film. I double-checked CDC guidelines (so my google search history is going to look proper dodgy), and they state
‘People who are internally contaminated can expose people near them to radiation from the radioactive material inside their bodies.’
So Kate would’ve never been outside the hospital (don’t get me wrong, the guards do look for her and stuff, but it’s quickly forgotten about). And because she would expose thousands of people literally to radiation poisoning, there would be posters, cops, and everyone would be on high alert, so she shouldn’t have been able to move about the city.
Also, within two minutes of being around her, people would get ill. Considering she spends a lot of time with the target’s daughter, she should get sick, and she doesn’t. It’s something I remembered at the start of the movie, and now I’m reminded of it. I can’t shake it, especially as she’s bleeding and touches clothes, medicine packs, and the kid even helps patch her up. Maybe I’m being too harsh and overthinking the whole radiation thing, but it’s a plot problem to my knowledge that bugs me.
Now I will be fair the director did a good job injecting some much-needed style into this movie. With neon lights used throughout and fluid fighting with katanas and dynamic camera action with tracking shots and a kill filmed from above. There is minimal blood splattering, but one is memorable when they’re in the sushi restaurant, and blood spreads across a door.
The camera work is punch and fluid during the fight scenes and is like a slower golden circle. It reminds me of Atomic blonde. It injects some life and action in the film and, with the acting, stops it from being an entire cliched, slightly plot holed (if I got my fact right) mess!
Overall I’m giving the film two and a half stars. It’s predictable, and there’s a problem with the plot I can’t shake. However, the acting, style and character moments in the film stop it from being unwatchable. Still better than she’s all that, I guess!
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