Netflix’s ‘Kate’ is a ticking time bomb of gritty action and dark suspense

Netflix’s Kate is an action-thriller starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Woody Harrelson. But is it worth your time?

Kate is set in Japan, and the premise is fairly straight-forward—on Kate’s last hit, the poison coursing through her veins forces her to miss her shot. In a race against time, she battles it out against the yakuza to figure out who wants her dead and why.

The plot itself is not spectacularly different from its predecessors—talented assassin, grizzled mentor, job gone wrong, secrets revealed, revenge enacted—but part of me thinks that’s the point. The events in the film are merely vehicles through which the director, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, and the script’s writer, Umair Aleem, build a portrait of the enigmatic character simply named Kate.

We’re not with Kate for long—a mere twenty-four hours, in fact. But in that time, you come to love and respect her. The irony here is that she’s a hard, cold person most of the time. She is an assassin, after all. But it’s her principles that give her an ounce of humanity. And that’s all you really need to understand that she’s a good person at her core.

Those principles begin and end with Ani, played by Miku Patricia Martineau. This little girl is easily the highlight of the film for a multitude of reasons. Not only is she at the center of everything that’s happening, but she’s also the one person Kate can’t say no to. Ani isn’t exactly easy to deal with (she’s loud, a little obnoxious, and dangerously naive), but she’s got a lot of spunk, and she adapts to her new situation fairly quickly.

Kate and Ani are not the dynamic duo I envisioned when I tuned into this movie. It’s like a buddy cop comedy—two people from vastly different worlds coming together with the same goal. Kate is a hardened assassin who doesn’t mind using the kid as bait because she knows she can protect her, and Ani is a spoiled child whose name alone grants her certain freedoms from the wrath of the yakuza—until it doesn’t.

The third player here in Netflix’s Kate is Woody Harrelson as Varrick. He fulfills the fundamental role of Kate’s mentor and handler. On more than one occasion, the film tells us they’re best friends. I wasn’t expecting vulnerability and love from their relationship, but it’s for this reason they make such a kickass team.

Varrick isn’t exactly a standout character, but a necessary one for the film. Harrelson does what he does best, and I can see a little bit of Haymitch in him from The Hunger Games. All the gruff with a lot less drinking. Plus, he’s always good for a laugh with his trademark dry humor.

But if I’m being honest, I didn’t turn on this movie for Woody Harrelson. I didn’t even tune in for Mary Elizabeth Winstead (okay, mostly). I did it for the action, and I think a lot of people who watch these kinds of movies will be paying close attention to the fight choreography. Especially with a movie set in Japan.

The way Hollywood typically films action sequences is with plenty of cuts and close-up reaction shots. Eastern influences, such as what you get with Hong Kong style cinema, let the fight choreography speak for itself. These intricate movements are usually coupled with big, flashy tricks. There are fewer cuts and reaction shots because the camera simply follows the action as though the fight were happening in real time.

I’m happy to report that the action in Netflix’s Kate did not disappoint. Seng Kawee and Spencer Sano can claim a list of major films a mile long, as both stuntmen and coordinators, including Street Fighter, Ong-Bak, The Expendables, American Assassin, Birds of Prey, John Wick, Transformers, and so many more.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Kate leaned into its choreography, giving us excellent sequences focusing on hand-to-hand combat as well as scenes involving weapons. My favorites tend to be when the hero has to use her surroundings to her advantage, whether that’s with impromptu weapons or finding a way off the beaten path. As far as settings go, Japan certainly offered an interesting backdrop to this story.

The punches were hard, and a lot of men fell at Kate’s feet. All while time was ticking away from her. This element of the movie elevated it and kept you on the edge of your seat. The film would’ve been an intense action thriller from the start, but Kate’s immediate deadline brought a whole other level of suspense to the story.

If you’re looking for an interesting action movie to watch on Netflix, I don’t think you’ll go wrong with Kate. It’s got great fight choreography, wonderful performances (especially from Winstead and Martineau), and a few clever twists. The end of the movie left me wanting more, and while I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing, it definitely wouldn’t stop me from recommending this to someone who’s got a couple hours to kill.

What did you think of Netflix’s ‘Kate’?

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