Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, John Malkovich, Geena Davis, Joan Chen, Common, Diana Silvers, Jess Weixler, Ioan Gruffud
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Some Violence)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 17 September 2020
Synopsis: Ava (Jessica Chastain) is a deadly mercenary who works for a black ops organization, travelling the globe and specializing in high profile hits. Ava's career takes a bad turn when a high profile job goes wrong due to faulty information provided to her. With a botched hit (as well as a track record for questioning the validity of her targets), Ava is told to take a hiatus until the heat blows over, but secretly the head of the organization, Simon, has ordered a hit on her to ensure nothing traces back to the company. With the recent death of her father, Ava decides to go back home to Boston and attempt to mend her relationship with mother and sister, Judy, though the homecoming proves to be far from happy as the years of estrangement have created resentment. To complicate things further, Ava's ex fiancé, Michael is now in a relationship with Judy, and involved with an underground gambling ring that Ava knows all too well from her younger days. Ava now has to save her family and herself from multiple threats, while battling her own demons.
Two decades ago, Angelina Jolie stunned the world with her portrayal of Lara Croft, the kick-ass heroine from the best-selling videogame Tomb Raider. Since then, there has been no lack of tough onscreen female leads from Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld series to Milla Jovovich’s in the ongoing Resident Evil franchise. The list goes on.
However, there is always the convenient female assassin/agent/cop genre that Hollywood simply never gets tired from. Remember Charlie Theron’s Atomic Blonde or Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow? Just that this time round Jessica Chastain known for Zero Dark Thirty and Molly’s Game has joined the club as Ava, a black ops assassin caught in a series of uninvolving, generic situations.
The helmer of The Help and The Girl On The Train, Tate Taylor steps in after the original director is accused of domestic violence, though he still retains his writing credit. Taylor is a capable filmmaker all right but he is seemingly out of his element here especially for a genre that deserved some fresh ideas being injected.
There’s no point talking about the entire plotting of Ava, simply because all the tropes and proceedings have been told in one form or another in other better assassin action thrillers. All you need to know is Ava is a Black Ops assassin that is involved in an operation went wrong. Ava is then advised by her mentor, Duke (John Malkovich) to lie low for the time being. On the other hand, Duke’s protege, Simon (Colin Farrell) wants Ava dead. Then there is a subplot about Ava’s estranged mother (Geena Davis), her younger sister Judy (Jess Weixler) and former boyfriend, Michael (Common). And then there is Joan Chen who appears as the owner of a gambling den and former Mr. Fantastic, Ioan Gruffudd as a slain businessman.
Right after the opening scene, Ava starts to run out of steam fast although it’s a pretty busy flick. Instead of a simplified tale, the scripting involves one too many twists and detour thinking that this is possibly the best way to tell a complex espionage action thriller. The story is filled with head-scratching decisions and characters without any depth or purpose. Take for example, her former flame who is now attached to Ava’s younger sister. Is that a worthy decision to propel the plot further? And what’s up with the whole family melodrama thingy doing in an action oriented movie? Important details that are integral to the movie are omitted for mundane things liked these.
It’s obvious Ava is a troubled production likely aborted by everyone halfway thus having too little mileage to reach the finishing line. This is despite Jessica Chastain’s best efforts to get down and dirty with fellow co-star, Colin Farrell. By down and dirty we mean some very hard knocks and punches. Most importantly, Ava don’t really seems to be an interesting character outside her day job except she is a recovering alcoholic with a grudge against her deceased dad.
The fights choreographed by seasoned stunt coordinator Jeff Imada (The Bourne Ultimatum, Furious 7) are at most decent. The fight between Malkovich and Farrell’s characters is quite the highlight because you don’t really get to see the former gets to pull a muscle onscreen. The finale which involves Ava and Simon is brutal and bloody. There are frequent closeups and slick editing that adds to the whole stuntwork.
Would Ava be a better movie if let’s say her mom is a retired agent. Duke is actually her long-lost father. Simon is a rouge agent who wants them dead, and Michael is an undercover cop who happens to fall in love with Ava? Perhaps the end result will be much more entertaining and less generic. No doubt, Jessica Chastain plays it solid but she needs a stronger, compelling script to go with it.
(Hollywood needs to work on their script besides changing their actresses in this run-out-mill action thriller)
Review by Linus Tee