Kate (2021): Solid Action But Needed to Develop the Themes and Characters Further

“Kate” is a 2021 action-thriller from Netflix that is enjoyable and flawed. It has amazing visuals, cinematography and soundtrack (given the director’s background in visual effects this makes sense) but the story and themes needed more work in order for the film to be good. Still I do recommend this as a rental.

The film was directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and written by Umair Aleem.

The story follows Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) when after killing a Yakuza boss which is promised to be her last job from her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson), finds she has is poisoned and has 24 hours to find the one responsible.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is neat as Kate has 24 hours to live and is up against the Yakuza so is playing against the odds. She also killed a boss who had a child named Ani who she ends up caring for giving the film elements of “Logan” and “Gunpowder Milkshake.”

The Action – The action is great. There are very few jump cuts and great use of vibrant colors to bring out the action sequences. There is also a good array of combat with guns, knives, swords and whatever weapons are around. It brings scenes to life quickly. The cinematography and action play into each other and keep the film from ever feeling slow.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack has some great Japanese rock, incorporates synth and electronic and gives the film a dreamlike feel at times. It fits the tone of the fim well and captures the ticking clock feel of the premise. Nathan Barr did a fantastic job.

The Cinematography – Lyle Vincent’s cinematography is beautiful. Vibrant lights meet dark and illuminates the action and characters in compelling ways. It gives a surrealist feel to the characters and action which strengthens the film.

The Main Characters – I wish the main characters and their relationships are built around family and toxic dynamics versus and abuse versus being present and guiding your children. We see this in Ani and Kijima and Varrick and Kate which I’ll explore more below.

Ani and Kijima – Ani’s father is killed by Kate via Varrick who did it on orders from Kijima’s advisor Renji. Kijima speaks to Ani about Varrick’s using her and his own ego blinding him to ambition within the Yakuza. He helps Kate get revenge after and take out Renji to protect Ani. Ani rightfully feels abandoned by her family until Kijima who is her uncle and Kate, at this point all the family has left rescue her, reaffirming how they mean to her. Both Miku Martineau and Jun Kunimura do a good job as Ani and Kijima. I especially liked Kijima’s redemption and respect he forms for Kate.

Varrick and Kate – Harrleson’s Varrick is a creep who killed Kate’s parents it is implied and only cares about her as a weapon. He is why she was poisoned and she finds family in Kijima and Ani who she avenges when she finally kills Varrick when his gaslighting doesn’t work anymore. Mary Elizabeth Winstead again shows why she is an amazing action star and I’d love a Huntress show or movie since that is who she was in “Birds of Prey.”

The Cons:

Renji and Most of the Yakuza – The fight sequences with the Yakuza are fun but the majority of the people fought have nothing distinct about them. This film needed more mini-bosses for Kate to fight on her revenge quest. The “John Wick” films are one of the few action films that understand this.

Connection of the Plot Threads – We needed more setup for Renji and Varrick’s double cross. It isn’t set up at all and we are just told it. This was weak and hurt the film from being good.

Failure to Develop Themes – Colonialism is touched on as a theme by Kijima on what motivates Varrick but never developed. It is lip services and could have been more if we had got more interactions of Varrick’s plans and past. Abuse is touched upon too as Kate is a victim of Varrick and his organization but it is never directly called out or explored like the colonialist themes.

Critics hated this film but it worked enough for me to be fun and flawed. The characters work and the action, cinematography and soundtrack hold it all together. Again, this isn’t a good film but it is well worth watching on Netflix or renting if you like action films.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Flawed but enjoyable action film.

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