Netflix review: Winstead's deadly but dying assassin lifts stylish 'Kate'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 20 2021 05:54 AM

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Kate'
Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Kate'

Kate is an assassin for hire under the mentorship of her trainer and handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson), whom she lovingly called V. In her last case in Osaka, she was able to complete her job to kill a Yakuza man, but was disturbed by the fact that she had to shoot the man dead in the unexpected presence of a teenage girl. 

Ten months later in Tokyo, a temporary moment of carnal carelessness led Kate to contract acute radiation syndrome and was only given 24 hours to live by her doctors. She only had that much time to find the mob boss Kijima (Jun Kunimura) who was responsible for the dire condition she was dying from, and settle the scores accordingly. 

Name an action film recently, there is invariably an assassin as the primary character, either a man or a woman. Films about female assassins had starred the most glamorous actresses to play the ruthless main character, from Natalie Portman ("La Femme Nikita"), Angelina Jolie ("Wanted"), Scarlett Johannsen ("Lucy") and Charlize Theron ("Atomic Blonde"), to the more unlikely ones like Geena Davis ("The Long Kiss Goodnight"), Saoirse Ronan ("Hanna"), Jessica Chastain ("Ava") or Cristine Reyes ("Maria").

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I would add "Kate" lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead to the list of the more unlikely ones. She had been in films since 2005 but was mostly relegated as the damsel in distress in various horror films. She had been lately been getting more high-profile roles on TV like "Fargo" (2017) and in films like "Birds of Prey" (2020). With her lean frame and brunette hair, her look was reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in "Alien," strong and no-nonsense. Her fight scenes were realistically brutal, as were her symptoms she was suffering from.

The whole revenge scenario was admittedly very familiar, but "Kate" stands out from the other similar-themed films with its Japanese pop theme with the pink neon lights and the girl punk music soundtrack. 

The continuous deterioration of Kate's health while she was fighting off the entire cabal of Yakuza goons within her 24-hour time limit gives it an additional sense of immediacy. The presence of pretty and feisty 17-year old Miku Martineau as Kate's accidental sidekick Ani was also a big plus. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."