Ava (2020)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/20/21
Stunt Choreographer: Jeff Imada
Music: Bear McCreary
Cast: Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Common, Colin Farrell, Geena Davis, Joan Chen

Ava Faulkner (Jessica Chastain) is an assassin with a troubled past and a history of alcoholism. She's extremely good at what she does, but she's emotionally and psychologically unstable, has issues with authority, and tends to break protocol. When bad intel botches her latest job, she becomes a liability to the company, which leads to the inevitable betrayal and subsequent revenge. On top of that, she has to battle her demons and navigate a minefield of family drama from her toxic relatives.

The betrayed assassin plot is overused and nothing new, but it's a convenient platform for staging action scenes. Unfortunately, the attempts to humanize Ava drag the film down, and the pacing suffers as a result. The uncomfortable family drama is tiresome and the alcoholic sub-plot is tedious and unnecessary. Jessica Chastain is an excellent actress, but I don't find her attractive at all, and her unfortunate makeup certainly doesn't help matters any. The action is solidly mediocre, and while I appreciated Chastain's physicality, her fights come across as overly soft and unconvincing. Not surprisingly, tight shots and rapid-fire editing betray the film's budget and obscure most of what's going on. John Malkovich is wonderful as Ava's fiercely loyal handler, while Colin Farrell makes a laughable villain with a ridiculously awful moustache. You seriously can't take your eyes off of it. Common, Geena Davis, and Joan Chen aren't given much to work with, but they seem fully aware that they're in a B-movie and make the best of it. The film definitely favors drama and interpersonal conflict over action, which makes it sluggish and dull, and the action feels like an afterthought. It also doesn't help that none of the characters are particularly likable (with the exception of Malkovich), and even though the flawed and self-destructive Ava is desperately seeking redemption and closure, it's hard to empathize with her. Ultimately, it feels like the film can't decide whether it wants to be a dramatic thriller or an action movie, which makes it fall short in both categories.