What new can you do with an assassin movie anymore? The hero (antihero if you please) could be a man or a woman but the Hollywood formula remains the same. Lots of action, lots of blood, canned in trademark style that is almost a couple of decades old now, ever since Matt Damon looked cool doing it in the first Bourne flick all those years ago.
From Anna to Hanna to Atomic Blonde or Unlocked, the ladies in Hollywood have been doing brisk business too, playing the killer within the assassin/spy template. It’s Jessica Chastain’s turn now to get going with formulaic kills. On cue, the narrative traverses swanky locales, and a steady flow is maintained of choreographed action involving guns, knives and plain fist-and-feet combat.
None of it seems new anymore. For a runtime of a little under 100 minutes, the film tests your patience as Chastain’s Ava Faulkner flits from kill to kill with boring invincibility.
A Hollywood screen assassin needs a quasi-tragic back story, so Chastain’s protagonist is a reformed alcoholic with some sort of a criminal history in her younger days. There is a family picture drawn up too, for a dash of melodrama to be woven into a narrative otherwise packed with set-piece violence. So you have a mother (Geena Davis) and a sister (Jess Weixler), but then Ava is so busy ‘closing’ jobs that she hardly ever gets to meet them — which creates scope for some sentimental family drama when they do meet.
You get the picture, Ava is a lonely person. So, she actually spends a few minutes asking her targets what wrong they did before bumping them off. Her mentor Duke (John Malkovich) doesn’t like Ava’s crazy ‘socialising’ streak, but tolerates nonetheless. Others, like Simon (Colin Farrell), who is being groomed to replace Duke within the ranks, is not so kind. He feels Ava is a ‘problem’, and needs to be ‘closed’.
You don’t spot much of an effort to move away from cliches, so much so even before the climax fight between the two primary characters begins, you are only too sure how it will end. Actually, you have figured out how the film will unfold and end even as Ava pulls off her first kill right at the start.
It’s one of those films that leaves you wondering why they bothered making it in the first case, if they really had no original idea to go about it.
Ava (film on Netflix); Cast: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, John Malkovich, Geena Davis, Jess Weixler, Common; Direction: Tate Taylor
–ians, VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY