Kate is an Ultra-violent, blood-soaked rampage across neon lit Tokyo
Kate is directed by Cedric Nicholas-Troyan and stars Mary Elizabeth-Winstead as a no-frills no-nonsense kind of assassin with a code, trained from childhood by her mentor V played by Woody Harrelson. She is poisoned by the mob following a job that doesn’t go to plan and finds herself with 24hours to live. Having no real family or attachments, she spends that time seeking out the members of the Yakuza mob and working her way up the chain to find out who ordered her death.
The story is not an original one, children have been taken on and trained as assassins in cinema for decades, I still remember a young Natalie Portman in Leon learning the trade. Little time is spent explaining Kates’s childhood, it’s mostly covered in flashbacks which to be honest were sufficient. She encounters the teenage daughter of one of the Yakuza and this turns the solitary affair into almost a buddy movie, with Kate being the serious one and Ani, played by Miku Martineau the more comical chatter box.
Mary Elizabeth-Winstead is great at playing the strong silent types but those type of characters are always more effective on screen when bouncing off someone loud and chatty and Ani provides that in spades. She is vulgar, angry, vulnerable and a lost soul, even within her family so she clings to Kate quite quickly. She also serves as a marker of where east meets west in modern Japan. Her music, style and dress are very much western, as is her language and influences. But she is also tied to the more traditional values held around her like family loyalty, even if it’s within the mob
The action is fast paced but not so much that you can’t see what’s going on. Kate is not an invincible terminator type character and spends equal amount of time slashing throats as she does patching herself up. Speaking of slashing throats, if you have an issue with ultra-violence then you may wish to avoid this one. Is not the most action-packed film of the year, by a long stretch and it doesn’t have a body count that will make the news. But what is there is vicious. Decapitation, loss of limbs and fingers, it’s all very messy stuff!
The music provided by Nathan Barr is full of J Pop hits and synthesized sounds which transport you into the streets of Tokyo, making you feel part of the culture. Culture plays a part in this film as there are many references made to the unwelcome influence of foreigners on the Japanese way of life and doing business. Westerners are eager to pick at and profit from their businesses like vultures without any interest in respecting or understanding it. There is some concerns that the mentality of money over family is negatively affecting the current and younger generations within the country
Kate will not win any awards for originality or stand out performances. Woody Harrelson is the biggest star in the film and while he is committed to the role, it didn’t involve much heavy lifting for him. Mary Elizabeth Winstead continues to be endearing in a way without being incredible. She’s good in the film much like she was as huntress in Birds of Prey. You will enjoy watching her but not necessarily love her. She delivers competently in all areas including the action as she drags her injured poisoned body right to the end credits.
This film along with Jolt, The Protégé and Gunpowder Milkshake were all due out within a few months of each other (check out the New Generation assassins here) which is a shame as people will immediately draw some negative comparisons between them. The fact they are all bad ass killer/assassin ladies and especially with gunpowder milkshake where a young girl is also being protected. All the ladies have mentors/handlers played by older men which again might leave some with the feeling that these women can’t be who they are without the backing of a man. This may paint an unfavourable picture and set things back slightly if these films were somehow meant to represent female empowerment on screen.
Kate is a cool movie and entertaining enough for a fun Saturday night. Much like the lights of Vegas, the neon lights of Tokyo and atmosphere were like another character in the film and made me feel like Japan is a place I would like to visit (minus the gangsters and violence). Kate is a book-soaked revenge thriller which doesn’t do much wrong but at the same time doesn’t take any risks. It sits as comfortably in the middle of the road as its name. If nothing else, it does prove Mary Elizabeth Winstead can lead a film, just hopefully next time it’s one with a bit more ambition
Kate is available now on Netflix. See the trailer here