A Night In Little Tokyo-KATE

by Daniel Mendes, TheCinebuff.com

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is out for blood in Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s Kate. On her final mission, Kate (Winstead) has been poisoned by a toxin that gives her less than a day to live. Refusing to go down without a fight, she sets out on a quest for revenge. Kate’s hunt leads her to Ani (Miku Martineau), the daughter of one of her recent kills who is linked to the people responsible for poisoning her. Danger lurks in every corner of neon-soaked Tokyo, and even the closest allies cannot be trusted. As she ventures further into the criminal underworld, Kate will not only have to face off against the yakuza but also her transgressions as an assassin. 

Kate lives and dies by the strength of its lead performance, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead carries this whole film squarely on her shoulders. The Scream Queen who’s dabbled in genre fare such as 10 Cloverfield Lane and Birds of Prey, flaunts her acting chops with a blend of vulnerability and tenacity. Winstead’s commitment to the fight choreography cannot be praised enough, and she sells the badass side of the character! Despite being an unstoppable killing machine, the actress and filmmakers give Kate a quirky personality. One of the film’s running gags is her love for “Boom Boom Lemon Drink” which comes full circle with a cute payoff near the climax. Winstead has always been a convincing action star, but her emotional vulnerability makes Kate into something more than a generic action protagonist.

The film delivers visceral action sequences and some gorgeous visuals to back it up! 87North Productions, the company responsible for the John Wick series, once again proves they’re the best in the action game today. For fans of the Wick films, Kate bears the same DNA: exciting choreography, fluid camerawork, and gorgeous backdrops. It’s hard to single out one specific set piece in a film brimming with so many, but Kate’s first encounter with the yakuza is the film’s peak. A luxurious Japanese restaurant embellished in white and gray is soon plastered in bright red as Kate shoots and hacks her way through her assailants. The true star of these sequences is Lyle Vincent’s cinematography which moves in rhythm with the action at hand. Blood splashes, bones break, and heads fall left and right in a variety of set pieces that are unrelentingly brutal in their execution.

Unfortunately, sloppy scripting keeps this film from truly being transcendent. All the twists and plot beats are telegraphed from a mile away and feel like nothing more than a checklist to keep the plot moving. The film tries to establish Kate’s relationship with Ani (Miku Martineau), the daughter of the man Kate murdered, but Ani is underwritten and feels like an unneeded appendage to the story. Martineau gives a good performance, but her teenage angst only works for so long until it becomes grating. 

So, is Kate worth seeing? Yes! Despite its derivative plot, Kate boasts a charismatic performance and a handful of good to great action set pieces. The plot’s main function is to carry the audience through to the next set-piece, but with choreography as exciting as this , it’s justified. For fans of John Wick and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, sit back and fire it up on Netflix!

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