Release Date: 10/09/2021

Platform: Netflix

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Woody Harrelson, Miku Patricia Martineau, Tadanobu Asano

Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Over the last few weeks, I have watched two films (Protégé, Jolt), wherein the protagonist is a kickass femme fatal who goes after the bad guys to avenge someone she has lost because of them. These films were proficiently made even though they had their share of problems. In Kate, the titular character played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead goes after the bad guys because they have terminally poisoned her with radioactive material that gives her about 24 hours to live.

Earlier we learn that she is a proficient hitman who is at the prime of her career. She is entrusted with killing a Yakuza boss whose brother she has already killed in a different hit. Just before she goes for the hit, she consummates with a stranger after a brief chit-chat. They even share some wine.

While carrying out the hit, she feels physically ill, misses her target, and then meets with an accident while trying to escape. At the hospital, she learns that she has been poisoned with radioactive material and that she has about 24 hours to live. Kate sets out to kill one and all who might have been instrumental in her predicament and in doing so she unearths an elaborate and sinister plot playing out between the Yakuzas and the organization that she works for. Will Kate be able to avenge herself? Is there an antidote for the poison? Who was it that poisoned her and why? These are some of the questions that drive the narrative of the film.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s pulsating performance is at the core of what is best about the film

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is hands down the best thing about this film. Not only does she look like a vengeful goddess out for vengeance, she completely sells the physical aspects of the character. I just loved how unshackled and brutal she felt in her rendition of the character while carrying out hits and going up against bad guys.

She is almost always sweaty and blood-soaked through the film and yet looks divine in her avatar. I felt that she did most of her stunts herself and that made the character feel uncharacteristically physical and real. There is a physicality and pulsating power that an action character assumes when the actor rendering it takes it upon them to physically meet the demands of the characters in addition to being dramatically there.

This factor is well served in Kate by Winstead’s stellar physical turn along with her already proficient acting guiles. I felt every punch that she threw. I felt every bullet that she hurled at other and also the ones that she took on herself.

As the film progresses, we see her physical and mental state deplete and she starts approaching the action in different ways. That was something that elevated the appeal of it all. While all that she can pull off may feel odd and too much for many (which, by the way, is), the film never for once lost its grip on my attention due to a lack of believability and realism.

Winstead shares a sweet camaraderie with Miku Patricia Martineau who plays Ani. While it takes Kate a while to warm up to Ani but once she does, the two bring to life some heartfelt drama that will definitely appeal to many.  

Sensational action sequences  

Out of the three films of this type that I watched over the last few weeks, Kate has the best action sequences. I have to give special mention to two hand-to-hand combat sequences and one action sequence involving Kate fighting off a horde of assailants who try to kill her in a city center.

There is something raw and in-your-face about the action sequences that grabs your attention and makes you feel that whatever you are watching is for real. This is possible because of the physicality that Mary Elizabeth Winstead brings to the character of Kate and also because of how well these sequences are shot and edited.

The editing is fast enough to give the audience an idea about the pace and haphazardness of the action but at the same time gives them just enough time to absorb the moves and the carnage.

Well executed thrills and a ticking time-bomb of a clock on the protagonist’s life

The film is about the ticking clock that is taking the protagonist to her end and whether or not she will be able to avenge herself before the clock runs out. This constant reminder of the finite nature of the challenge that she is up against makes for an engrossing watch.

Every little delay that happens only increases our tension. Add to that the visibly dilapidating physical state of Kate and how well it is rendered makes for a tense and engrossing watch.

Having said all that, the film suffers from some major issues that spoil the fun of it.

Too predictable

The plot and proceedings move in a certain way and if you have seen atleast a few films of this type you would know which way the story was headed and it moves exactly in that direction. While I hoped to be proved wrong by the end of it all, I was not and that amounted to some major disappointment for me as I otherwise enjoyed this film and wanted to be enthralled by how it ended. The film needed a thrilling and emotionally exasperating finale to leave a telling impact. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Woody Harrelson is wasted in a generic and boring character

It is criminal to waste a phenomenal talent like Woody Harrelson on a character that is as generic and boring as they come. From the first time, the character appears on-screen, you will know what to expect from it and will even be able to see through the veil of its goodness and gauge how the character will turn out. In Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s defense, it can be said that having Woody Harrelson enact the character saved it from turning completely invisible like all the other supporting characters of the film.

Reason, logic, and believability go for a toss

As is the case with most films of this type, the reason, logic, and believability often go for a toss. It would have served the film well had it tried to keep the proceedings more grounded and realistic. The film has great action sequences but there was a car chase in the midst of it all that was not only questionable but also stuck out like a sore thumb. The kind of an accident that Kate has by the end of this sequence should have left her dead but she recovers with nothing more than a few scratches. That was the point when I could no longer take the film seriously.   

Final words

Suspension of disbelief is the key to enjoying Kate. I was blown away by Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s stellar performance and the sensational action sequences. It can be a worthy watch for all those who are looking for some quick escapist entertainment.  

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

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