‘Kate’ Review: Lost in Assassination

The thriller “Kate” is an undistinguished action film that makes a hero of a hit woman. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), guided by her wily handler, Varrick (Woody Harrelson), has been a professional since adolescence. Her only rule is to never kill in front of a child. Naturally — this being a relatively unimaginative plot — Kate betrays her principles within the first five minutes of the movie, murdering a yakuza gang member in front of his daughter.

The fallout for Kate proves worse than a mere breach of assassin’s creed. She learns that her victim’s gang has targeted her, slipping her a fatal dose of polonium. She has 24 hours to live before radiation destroys her body, and in that time, she is determined to get her revenge. But the only person who knows where she can find the shadowy leader of the gang that wants her dead is Ani (Miku Martineau), the child who witnessed her father’s slaughter.

The film takes place in Japan, and the director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan tries to use the setting to inject a shot of style into the largely routine story. There are neon cars, Kabuki theater performances and as many murders committed with samurai swords and katanas as there are with guns. The movie presents an eye-catching fantasy of a candy-colored Japanese underworld. But the exoticism feels as cheap as a whiff of a green tea and musk cologne called Tokyo wafting over a department store counter. Even Winstead, stoic in her fashionably boyish haircut, looks bored.

Rated R for graphic violence, brief gore, and brief sexuality. Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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