Mary Elizabeth Winstead, widely known for her early role in the horror film “Final Destination 3,” delivers fans a new type of thrill as the titular lead in Netflix’s “Kate.”
The film takes little time to throw viewers into the hectic, fast-paced adventure of Kate, a female assassin ready to trade in her mentally and physically demanding life for the one she never got to experience, complete with a white picket fence and a family dog. Her dream is quickly derailed when she’s poisoned with a lethal radioactive substance that only gives her 24 hours to live, which is just enough time for one final mission to exact murderous revenge on the mobster behind her death.
As suggested by the loaded synopsis, this is not the ideal film choice for the faint of heart.
With extremely graphic fight scenes, writer Umair Aleem and director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan do not shy away from exposing the audience to sliced-off heads, open flesh wounds or gruesomely long stabbings. Nor is there any shortage of dangerous stunts as the film follows Kate through high-speed car chases and fatal fistfights.
The movement of the camera especially highlights this. It’s hard to ignore cinematographer Lyle Vincent’s artistic hand at work as an array of low angles and spinning shots fill the screen, making the experience feel uniquely personal and just as haywire as if you were Kate herself or one of the unfortunate gang members she shows no mercy on.
While Kate may appear to be a cold killer that shows no remorse for her victims, there is one exception that sets her apart from most other action film protagonists: a soft spot for children that results from feeling forced to grow up at a young age.
Kate’s unresolved childhood trauma is what paves the way for her value of protecting children and shielding them from the horrors of her job, as seen to fruition in her relationship with Ani, played by Miku Patricia Martineau.
An outspoken teenage girl, Ani becomes intertwined with Kate when she is kidnapped as collateral damage, a way to lure out Ani’s uncle, who happens to be the one who poisoned Kate.
The initially, and understandably rocky relationship between Kate and Ani turns into a Stockholm syndrome scenario when the teenager learns to admire the assassin’s fierceness and chooses to accompany her on the mission even when given the choice to return home.
This opens the door for the emotional intensity that exists within “Kate.” Though clearly an action film with the number of punches and shootouts that get thrown into scenes, there are an equal amount of scenes that develop the genuinely caring relationship between Kate and Ani, adding elements of drama to the film.
Viewers may be drawn in by the convincing stunts and rugged attitude performed by Winstead, but they stay for the authentic relationship she and Martineau have so much success in building for their characters.
The audience may also stick around for the culture.
“Kate” is based in Tokyo, Japan; it works hard to incorporate the country’s way of life, from the language, brightly lit streets and T-shirt vending machines to cultural dances and upbeat Japanese music.
Though it’s certainly pleasing to the eye and adds substantial vibrance to an otherwise dark film, Japanese movie critics and fans have mixed reactions to how the country is represented.
Many felt “Kate” presented Japan in the most stereotypical fashion possible, a setting explored through the eyes of a foreigner. Others, however, found the point of view to be interesting and felt the story’s action-filled plotline was enough to save face. The opinion lies with the individual viewer.
All put together, “Kate” is a sleek and sexy movie composed of rugged characters with several layers to them, equating to a film that pleases action junkies and drama lovers alike. Viewers can feel satisfied knowing they accompanied Kate during the last 24 hours of her life, receiving the opportunity to witness a thrilling adventure and equally moving friendship.