Running time: 96 minutes
Written by: Matthew Newton
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Featuring: Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Common, Geena Davis, Colin Farrell, Ioan Gruffudd and Joan Chen
[to Ava, referring to the next assassination job]
Duke: “So this one could be tricky. The approach should be flirty but classy. Anything aggressive is going to scare the General off.”
Released recently on Blu-ray/DVD is the action thriller “Ava” (2020) that may seem fresh as well as original but falls flat on almost every aspect that one could think of. The plot is thin as well as almost amateurish in set up and pay off, the action scenes are not particularly inventive, the great actors are saddled with some real average dialogue and finally this entire movie seems to have been done before in the terrific “Haywire” (2011) almost ten years ago that launched the career of Gina Carino. These movies share more than the DNA of what make both of them a part of the action genre, they are both about hit woman working for a private agency who are betrayed and hunted down where they seek revenge for their betrayal. The obvious difference is that “Haywire” was first and was directed by a true auteur in Steven Soderbergh who made the movie something special and written by Lem Dobbs who has proven his talent in multiple screenplays that play on paranoia and what it means to be a part from society.
If this was just another action movie that had no aspirations for anything other than being some minor form of entertainment that would be one thing but you can just tell that “Ava” strives for something else with its star/producer Jessica Chastain and director Tate Taylor who, for years have attempted to position themselves as talents maybe better than they actually are. However because the story is unoriginal to say the least, a cheap copy to say the most, it has to invent a backstory for the main character to give her any real depth but it ultimately feels like a distraction from the main story which is far too light, so much so that it is the main story that is unsustainable. The other element of this movie that seems forced is the constant casting of well known actors to attempt to give the movie heft, but frankly their characters are copies from other better genre movies, but with terrible dialogue from the to perform, they are mostly wasted here.
“Ava” concerns the titular character, a trained assassin, who we are introduced to when she eliminates an English businessman in France. After completing the hit, Ava takes a flight to Boston, checks into a hotel and goes to meet her estranged sister Judy, where it is revealed that Ava ran away from her home eight years ago. Later, Ava flies to Riyadh for another mission: to kill a German general but make it look like a natural death. The hit is a failure, she is then hunted by her employers. from there the story picks up which meanders to its obvious conclusion.
Written by Matthew Newton and directed by Tate Taylor this movie is a poor example of a genre piece that needs to be original as well as striking to stand out of from a crowd, given that they have high profile actors involved this would seem to be obvious. However as I have said this movie is an inferior copy of a better movie in “Haywire”. Not only that, both writer and director have no skills in the control and creation of “Ava” which is clear when watching the movie. I would not have said that before they were involved as that would have been unfair, but when the A plot seems to be there for the B plot to occur that is a huge weakness in storytelling and narrative structure. This is a movie about a hit woman who is betrayed, this is what should be concentrated on, not some other story about her family and the past, this stalls the plot, confusing the narrative and has threads that are not concluded with any believability. Now I understand layering a character as well as delving into a psyche but no-one involved in “Ava” has the skill to do this believably and honestly.
“Ava” features Jessica Chastain in the main role who does an admirable job being physical while attempting to imbue the titular character with levels and depth but by about the fifteen minute mark I was bored, maybe it is to subtle but the plot was so distracting I felt like her performance and the plot were moving in different directions. The supporting cast is huge but they all play cyphers who are at best shadows of real characters, they are all flash with tics and idiosyncratic performances that are covering plot holes and inconsistancies that should not exist.
This is a movie that, for me is an inferior copy of another movie, it is hard not to compare one to the other but ultimately this is a case of the Emperors New Clothes, nothing new to see here, with yet another underwhelming Jessica Chastain performance. Every time I see her I think she strives too hard for relevance or success when she should just not worry about the size of a part or who she is working with and just concentrate on the material, everything else will take care of itself.