Ava, a Basic Spy Thriller

Jessica Chastain was looking for an action vehicle and potential franchise, and her Help director Tate Taylor decided to oblige her. Chastain herself gives it her all, clearly having endured enough physical training to be somewhat believable as a badass hitwoman who can take of herself. On the other hand, Taylor and his production team haven’t done their do-diligence in acquiring the skills or skilled craftsman capable of choreographing action sequences that would make such a film worthwhile. Presumably, given the otherwise basic and ungifted storyline, the entire purpose of this movie was for Taylor and Chastain to try their hand at the sort of bruising fisticuffs recently re-popularized by the John Wicks of the world. As an action film, Ava fails quite miserably, but with one exception: a bloody and mildly thrilling tête-à-tête between John Malkovich and Colin Farrell in the latter’s backyard. As a drama, Taylor and company succeed better as they use Ava’s character to shine a light on the addicts and traumatized individuals who would likely seek out such a dangerous, essentially suicidal career path. While Ava’s sexual tension with ex-boyfriend Common is non-existent and a mostly distracting subplot, her relationship with her mother (Geena Davis, where have you been?) provides for the film’s best scene (and a heart-wrenching one) and a particularly good argument for a version of this story that disregards action in favor of domestic drama at home. I would’ve liked to have seen more of the abnormal, addict assassin trying to re-assimilate with her normal yet dysfunctional family.

Grade: C-

Currently streaming on Netflix

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