Review: ‘Kate’ fails to resuscitate flagging female assassin genre

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Miku Martineau in "Kate." (Jasin Boland/Netflix/TNS)
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Adam Graham The Detroit News (TNS)

Don’t blame Mary Elizabeth Winstead for “Kate,” the latest in an assembly line of un-killable female assassin movies (see also July’s “Gunpowder Milkshake,” last month’s “The Protege,” and that’s just this summer). Winstead is never less than believable as a trained killer who is starting to mentally short circuit and is looking for a way out, a feeling to which we can all relate.

Umair Aleem’s script doesn’t do anything new with the conventions we expect, from the mentor (Woody Harrelson) who may not be such a benevolent father figure after all to the young girl (Miku Martineau) in whom Kate sees the hopes for a better tomorrow. At least director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) finds some inventive ways to take out some bad guys, which is the best one can hope for in a movie like “Kate.”

Winstead plays Kate, raised to kill by Varrick (Harrelson): all training, no childhood, you get it. She’s now at the top of her field — “haven’t missed once in 12 years,” she brags — but what goes up must come down, and nerves rattle her on a job and she slips up.

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She wants out, but others want her out more, and she’s soon injected with a lethal poison that gives her just 24 hours to live. She uses that last day to frantically get some answers, killing her way to the top of the food chain to find out who wants her dead, and in the process she meets Ani (Martineau) the bratty daughter of a Yakuza boss, whom she takes a liking to and gives her something to live for, for a few more hours anyway.

Nicolas-Troyan shoots Tokyo at night in a series of glowing pinks and blues which never look anything less than music video cool, and there’s a slickness to the violence that will increase the pulse of any action junkie. But at this point “Kate” feels like a routine exercise in the overworked assassin genre. Been there, killed that.

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‘KATE’

Grade: C

MPAA rating: R (for strong bloody violence and language throughout)

Running time: 1:46

Where to watch: Streaming Friday on Netflix

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