The Hollywood old guard is dwindling. Every decade has its own, with the most recent probably including the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, having careers that are quietly winding down a tad, with an eager bunch of self-absorbed narcissists ready to pick up the baton.
There will always be contenders, but Jessica Chastain has to be considered a virtually guaranteed shoe-in if ever there was one.
Although she has made an impression with a number of roles in her career to date including 2011’s The Help, 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty and 2017’s Molly’s Game, there’s something about her that teases that the best is yet to come. Unfortunately her participation in this film isn’t it.
After a successful ‘job’ in France, Ava (Chastain) decides to return to the family home of Boston, after an eight year absence. She doesn’t exactly get a warm welcome however, as her sister Judy (Jess Weixler) is far from pleased to see her. She also discovers that her mom Bobbi (Geena Davis) has also just been admitted to hospital.
Some might think that Ava has some explaining to do, but her line of work, as an assassin, doesn’t really allow for that sort of thing.
Meanwhile her handler, known as Duke (John Malkovich), has been informed by Management, the name given to the mysterious group that they both answer to, and run by Duke’s protégé Simon (Colin Farrell), that they have reason to believe that Ava didn’t follow management protocol – by talking to her target – which is a big no no.
Now Ava finds herself once again embroiled in messy family business, whilst having her professionalism called into question, by a hierarchy she’s never seen before. What she soon discovers is that the knives are definitely out for her.
You can see how a strong female character with some baggage would be appealing to someone like Chastain. There’s an opportunity for not only some emotional depth, but a fair amount of the kicking of ass. Unfortunately for her, director Tate Taylor struggles with both. He may well have directed his star in The Help, but that was a very different challenge, particularly on the ass-kicking front.
Taylor certainly struggles with the action sequences, with far too many feeling overly staged and clichéd. One shot in particular is outrageously poor, and would struggle to look authentic in a b-movie horror flick, which finds Chastain pouncing like a deadly salmon.
To counter-balance this assassin-looking-over-her-shoulder storyline, we have the almost less credible family saga. Her relationship with both her mom and sister is difficult, made more prickly when it’s revealed that her character had a relationship with her sister’s now boyfriend, played by Common.
With both these elements struggling on their own merits, Taylor fails miserably in his attempt to wedge one inside the other. Certainly as far as directing action is concerned, Taylor now knows that he’s no Luc Besson – as we all do too.
Not only is it disappointing to see someone of Chastain’s technical ability look rather silly, Taylor makes sure she’s not alone by including the likes of Malkovich and Farrell; the pair, who are both supreme talents in their own right, are clearly here for the pay check, which wasn’t enough to sully both their names as it does. Still, you have to give Taylor credit for getting the pair into a truly bizarre tussle, which definitely reveals why Malkovich was never really in contention for the next action hero, like we didn’t already know.
As for Chastain, she at least proves that she can kick ass and dive deep emotionally, just not both at the same for this out of his depth director. And despite this error of judgement, the smart money is still on her making a proper name for herself and joining the next generation of Hollywood’s elite class.