Why is Kate flopping with critics when Netflix’s latest thriller boasts action heroine Mary Elizabeth Winstead as its titular assassin antiheroine?
Netflix’s latest action effort Kate stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the titular assassin, but why is the action thriller receiving such negative reviews? Winstead has an impressive background when it comes to the action genre, having starred in everything from 2007’s Live Free Or Die Hard to 2020’s Birds of Prey. However, this has not stopped her most recent effort in the genre, Kate, from being largely dismissed by critics.
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Netflix release Kate stars Winstead as the titular character, an assassin who is left with 24 hours to live—and get violently even with her enemies—after being poisoned. Despite this promising premise, Kate has joined recent Neill Blomkamp horror Demonic as another badly reviewed action effort, although critics are largely agreed that Winstead is not to blame. Instead, most of the movie’s bad press comes from what Kate’s reviewers call an over-familiar story.
It is hard to deny that the plot of Kate is more than a bit derivative, with the premise of an antihero being given a brief window for vengeance before their death already being exploited by 2006’s wildly underrated Jason Statham cult oddity Crank. However, this conceit is not the element that many critics have singled out as being unoriginal in the case of Kate. Instead, reviewers have noted that earlier action thrillers like Charlize Theron-starring Atomic Blonde featured strikingly similar heroines, while the recent Gunpowder Milkshake even saw star Karen Gillan playing not only an assassin going up against former employers but one who befriended a young girl to humanize her killer character (as Kate does in this Netflix effort). So what do the negative reviews for Kate say?
“The body count becomes numbing… The film tries to make the audience care about Kate’s possible redemption… [But] it’s beyond obvious where this is going, that all this talk of family will sour into betrayal and eventually, a climax that postures as an emotional revelation. And it’s somewhat obvious to Nicolas-Troyan that the audience doesn’t really care.”
The Hollywood Reporter:
“You’ve seen Kate before in other movies, which a cynic might suspect is exactly the idea: It feels like a title cooked up by the Netflix algorithm solely for the purpose of populating a Because You Watched row. (It is actually directed by a human, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.) It’s a little bit Extraction, a little bit Gunpowder Milkshake… Even the title character feels like an extension of star Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s other vengeful assassin character from Birds of Prey.”
“The film could be forgiven for its tedious and predictable plot if it had some exhilarating action, but unfortunately, the fight scenes are rushed and leave Kate looking more like the Terminator than an actual human being whose body is gradually shutting down… Unfortunately, the story falls flat with tiresome tropes and faltering action scenes. The film really wants us to care about the title character, but fails to make us do so.”
Despite these largely negative write-ups, some reviewers felt Kate had its redeeming features. Winstead’s performance managed to net some praise despite the general distaste that reviewers had for the project, and some reviewers argued that “passable” was good enough for a streaming service action movie release. However, even these reviews found the movie lacking save for Entertainment Weekly’s positive writeup which preferred Kate’s po-faced self-seriousness to more outright silly action fare.
“Kate has some decently fun action, despite certain trite directorial choices, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead serving as the movie’s main bright spot.“
“A serviceable Friday night choice that gets the job done just fine, enough to turn it into a hit for the streamer, but not quite enough to insist that anyone actually bothers to make time for it.“
”Subtle it’s not: Kate is red-meat storytelling, all broad outlines and crunched bones. But there’s a visual wit and visceral energy to it that other recent efforts struggle to find.”
Kate’s issues with reviewers could stem from the fact that, unlike the more tongue-in-cheek Gunpowder Milkshake, the action-thriller remains relatively straight-faced throughout its increasingly ludicrous story. That is not to say that Kate takes itself too seriously, but that the Mary Elizabeth Winstead vehicle is not as campy about its humor as some of its competitors. Instead, Kate‘s tone is more John Wick than Nobody, something not all of its critics enjoyed.
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