It feels a little like John Wick, but in a good way.
Karen Gillan is a treasure. She made one of my favorite modern horror movies, Oculus, she was a companion on Doctor Who for years, and she displays an incredible amount of range despite prosthetics as Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, she wants to show you that she can kill a bunch of people in somehow hilarious and peppy ways. I’ve said repeatedly that one of my favorite tropes is a violent fight choreographed to an upbeat pop song, like the zombie fight to “Don’t Stop Me Now” in Shaun of the Dead. This movie uses that trope combined with a neon style and a glowing retro feel, best emphasized by the 1950s Diner that serves as a neutral ground for hitmen and mobsters.
Gillan plays Sam, a professional assassin working for Nathan (Paul Giamatti) an agent of “The Firm,” a group of men who apparently control everything. When she is hired to kill David (Samuel Anderson), an accountant who stole money from the Firm, Sam realizes that David was being blackmailed. A group of men are holding his daughter captive. Sam accidentally kills David and decides to protect his daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman). Unfortunately, it turns out that Sam also accidentally killed the son of Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson), the leader of a crime family who now wants revenge. Sam will have to turn to the librarians, a group of female killers who run the arms distribution in town: Madeleine (Carla Gugino), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), Anna May (Angela Bassett), and Scarlet (Lena Headey). Lots of fun killing will follow.
Aside from having a ton of long-cuts and showing Keanu Reeves kicking more ass than a convention of donkey punters, part of what worked well about the movie John Wick was that it showed us that there is a secret world of hitmen and mobsters that is working underneath the normal world. This film has that exact feeling. There is a giant library dedicated to buying and exchanging weapons, there’s a retro diner that’s filled with killers, there’s a hospital that only serves the mob, etc. It lends some credence to the idea of an unstoppable force of violence like Sam when it turns out that there’s a massive infrastructure dedicated to killing out there in the world. The film’s worldbuilding is effective, even though it is relatively limited. The sets, costumes, and cinematography are fantastic. Early on in the movie Sam is forced into a bowling outfit that becomes her signature throughout the story and the fact that they’re willing to put the main character in what is normally considered a dorky outfit is the kind of feel the movie is going for. The fight sequences, while still having a mostly average number of cuts for an action film, are creative and fun. The music does a great job of making the movie light enough to balance out much of the carnage. There is a level of physical humor inherent in much of the violence as well.
Overall, a fun movie if you like action.
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