Ava (2020)

Posted in Reviews by - December 03, 2020
Ava (2020)

B-grade fisticuffs with A-movie trimmings. This fight flick suffers greatly from trying to be both a wrought domestic drama and a zippy action yarn, and its good cast and performances are wasted on a forgettable story. Jessica Chastain – who also produces – is no slouch when it comes to gritty action heroes (Zero Dark Thirty, The Huntsman, Dark Phoenix). Here, she brings her effortless Hollywood charm and glamour to Ava, a tough ex-army assassin who returns home to Boston to confront a barrage of existential crises: absent father, sick mother (Geena Davis), angry sister (Jess Weixler) and jilted ex-lover (Common). She’s also a recovering alcoholic. Between scenes of Hallmark-esque melodrama, she also enjoys a secretive past-time; jet-setting to foreign locales at the behest of a fatherly fixer (John Malkovich) to kill various ‘subjects’, mostly foreign army generals and shady business types. They may be evil people, or maybe not – the story is less concerned with motive and instead focuses more on Ava’s character, particularly when a fellow assassin (Colin Farrell) sees Ava as too much of a liability to their cause. This has a lot going for it – a Farrell v. Malkovich slam-down, Joan Chen as a feisty nightclub madame, action legend Jeff Imada as stunt coordinator and Amy Johnston on doubling duties – but for a film so focused on fight scenes, it’s a shame that much of the action feels laboured, compromised by editing, and completely lacking in a post-John Wick world. The film’s disjointed nature may be connected to its turbulent journey to the screen. Initially called Eve, the film’s original director – screenwriter Matthew Newton – was kicked off the project due to a #MeToo situation, replaced at the last minute by Tate Taylor who worked with Chastain for 2011’s The Help. The coronavirus then saw the film’s release limited to only a few cinemas around the world before being discreetly released online, which feels like its natural home.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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