Mary Elisabeth Winstead proves an adept assassin in Kate, her own action film which, although wearing its influences on its sleeve to the point of derivativeness, entertains crunchingly. Winstead is the titular Kate who, in traditional Nikita-esque fashion, has been trained to be a killer from a young age by a male mentor – in this instance, Varrick, a cameo-ing Woody Harrelson. A hit on a Yakuza boss goes wrong, however, with a young girl, Miku Martineau’s Ani, caught in the crossfire.
Unable to shake the guilt of killing the girl’s father, Winstead tries to get out of her profession with one last hit against another Yakuza target in Tokyo. Before she takes the job, however, she has a one-night stand where she is given polonium-204, a radioactive poison. Now she has a day to find out why she has been targeted before she dies. Ludicrous of course, but Winstead sells the peril, proving a grimly efficient heroine: a gritty, no-nonsense pugilist who has to stop now and again to throw up, inject painkillers or pull out a decaying tooth as she gets sicker and sicker.
The violence is relentless, only slowing down as Winstead ends up befriending Ani, the pair doing their best to make their burgeoning relationship count. There is some impressively staged action amidst the neon-soaked Japanese locations, J-pop providing the soundtrack as the absurdity rises and predictable double crosses occur. Anchoring it all is Winstead, taking as much punishment as she dishes out, papering over Umair Aleem’s perfunctory script with determination as the cliches rise under director Cedric Nicholas-Troyan’s slick staging. A familiar but effective female John Wick with some emotion and real stakes within the expected carnage.
Dir: Cedric Nicholas-Troyan (15, 106 mins)
Out now via Netflix
words KEIRON SELF