Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Kate, a kick-ass assassin and we start out with her getting ready for a hit without any exposition, we jump right in and when she is about to take the shot, her mark has a child with him and so she wants to abort as it is against the code but her higher ups, insist she takes the shot and ultimately she does, twice, one in the neck and one in the head, shown graphically. The little girl screams in Japanese, blood all over her face.
That’s half of the setup. The other half is Kate getting poisoned for wanting to quit and her going on a killing spree to find her killer within 24 hrs, dosing herself with Adrenaline shots along the way to keep going. That needs to suffice for us to understand Kate’s decision to call it quits and retire to a normal life. We get nothing in terms of motivation to become an assassin or her past other than generic info, orphan, bad ass assassin takes her in and trains her into the killing machine she is today. The organization she and “V”arrick (Woody Harrelson), her handler, work for? No idea, some shady group dealing with shady people and getting into bed with the Yakuza, that’s it.
I would go so far as to say the plot is irrelevant as it can’t get any more generic and does at no time provide sufficient depth to make us care about any of the characters. It reminded me of the Narrative Certificate I did just last week, where it talks about story and narrative development, character briefs and all that. As far as characters go, the antagonist Kijima (Jun Kunimura), Ani’s uncle, is certainly stealing the show whenever he is on screen.
What about the action then? We have lots! And we certainly have rising action, intensifying as we progress, check. We don’t have any emotional connection neither as viewers, nor do the characters appear to have any other than the most basic impulse to satisfy greed, power and revenge and if you think in a three act arc, we have the setup, the confrontation and the resolution, check and check. As such we have satisfied the basic building blocks of narration and as we follow Kate we can’t help but wonder if we are watching some video game footage.
Lack of character depth aside, the action sequences are well done and Winstead sure knows the moves, she looks convincing but after so many times of killing endless waves of Yakuza it has a tendency of getting boring if there is nothing else but action. Kate barely avoids the boring mark on that spectrum but could have done with more depth for all of its characters, esp. Kate and Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau).
The final act, the resolution, boss fight, check, Kate succeeds of course before she dies and we are left but wonder about the point of it all? Endless cycle of violence? Ani becoming the next installment of Kate? We certainly care about neither and will have forgotten all about Kate by tomorrow.