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.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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