Review: Films Set In Japan – Kate (2021)

The fairly uninspiring title of this action, crime adventure sadly meant that I didn`t really take too much notice of this slick and stylish revenge assassin film when scrolling through the Netflix content.


Thankfully someone aware of my interest in movies set in Japan let me know about it and so I watched the 106 minute thriller back in September a week or two after it appeared on the video-on-demand subscription service.

It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the title-character who shows from the offset that she is meticulously skilled as a deadly assassin as well as a fine martial artist. She is at the height of her game but then she slightly botches a sniping assignment at a sea-side warehouse area in Osaka when a young girl is surprisingly with the man she has to shoot. Her hesitation shows she is a woman with a conscious and the involvement of kids is a breach of her personal code. Only for a short time though as she still ends up killing him in front of a shocked and distraught young girl.

She tells her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson) that she wants to retire and start a new life but not before the clichéd “final job” back in Japan. Just before that she meets a charismatic guy in a bar and they share drinks before having sex in her hotel room. She later feels dizzy and realises that she was poisoned, and after crashing a car, she wakes up in hospital and finds out that she has Polonium-204 poisoning and only 24 hours to live.

Warning: Contains spoilers!

Faced with so little time left on earth most people would probably do anything other than go out on a mission to exact revenge on whoever is behind her poisoning. Anything other than that would be a very different movie to this American action thriller though! Having escaped the hospital, an inevitable amount of blood, gore and violence ensues en-route to a Yakuza leader as the film rapidly hurries along.

Maybe knowing she`s on deaths doorstep means Kate has less to lose as she just bursts into dangerous places which no sane person would enter with such outrageous courage. She ends up meeting the teenage daughter of one of her past victims and forms an unlikely bond with her as her own body condition deteriorates.

That girl is called Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau) and she is a fairly solid character albeit slightly irritating at times but I will just assume that is down to good acting! Her and Kate make a good duo and run havoc under the night lights (and blood!) of Japan. As for the other characters, Woody Harrelson plays to recent type as the mysterious Varrick who has mentored and trained Kate since she was a young orphan. He didn`t feature as much as I`d hoped for though. I recognised Jun Kunimura from `Minamata` (2020) and he was great as the aging yakuza boss and Ani’s uncle. 

This is not just one of those movies with a segment set in the Far East as the whole thing takes place in Japan. It wasn`t necessarily filmed in Japan though as it seems like Bangkok, Hawaii and L.A. were also used alongside places in both Osaka and Tokyo. Residents of the two cities may notice that the geography is quite bewildering at times but that has rarely ever been a strong point in movies.

Such things are not really big negatives for me though. However, the weak points of `Kate` for me are the following. The pacing is quite relentless at times as the scenes just flash by without giving the film to breathe and allow for more character depth and fleshing out of their pasts. Some of Kate`s background was teased such as growing up without parents but in terms of satisfying detail on that it never really delivered.

I like to think I`m pretty good at suspending belief but the day-to-live plot occasionally lacks a little credibility as she certainly doesn`t appear to be getting any weaker at times as she goes from fight to fight. Not only that but one or two of the duels were ridiculously long. She managed to survive and be able to move on to the next place each time though.

The soft drink called Boom Boom Lemon which Kate craves and tries to locate throughout the film is one of the more lighthearted parts of the film and did get me wondering how I`d never come across the drink. All very possible in the land of hundreds and hundreds of different drinks but the reality is that it is fictional. The closest real-world  equivalent is probably CC Lemon.

The ending was a little underwhelming for me but it’s basically a fairly solid and entertaining film from director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. Just don`t expect anything too deep or original! Similar films like `Atomic Blonde` (2017), `Nikita` (2010), `Hanna` (2011) and `John Wick` (2014) are all better but the main thing this one has going for it is that it all takes place under the neon lights of Japan`s cities. 

Tokyo Fox Rating 6/10

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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