Saturday 6 February 2021

Movie Review: Ava (2020)

A routine action thriller, Ava boasts an impressive cast but mostly recycles tired professional assassin sub-genre cliches. 

Highly trained killer Ava (Jessica Chastain) works for a mysterious organisation and eliminates her latest target in France, but not before breaking protocol and conversing with her victim. She returns to Boston and reconnects with her sister Judy (Jess Weixler) and mother Bobbi (Geena Davis), as well as Michael (Common), who used to be Ava's lover but is now with Judy. Eight years prior Ava was an addict and abruptly abandoned Michael and her family when she discovered her father's infidelity. 

Now Ava is displaying signs of stress but her handler Duke (John Malkovich) maintains his trust and sends her on a new mission to Riyadh. Through no fault of her own this assignment ends in chaos, with Ava barely getting out alive. Duke's boss Simon (Colin Farrell) loses faith in Ava, unleashing a wave of violence.

Ava zips between several international destinations and always looks slick, director Tate Taylor never lingering in any one place for too long and often finding interesting camera angles. The above-average cast maintains interest without ever being challenged, Jessica Chastain (who also co-produced) suitably dour and ably supported by John Malkovich and Colin Farrell.

But the film's problems run deep. The Matthew Newton script adds little to the well-worn travails-of-the-assassin canon, and features a tediously high number of samey prolonged physical combat scenes. All are clumsily edited into incoherence and end with Ava just a bit bruised and bloodied despite receiving a barrage of heavy blows. The parade of bone crushing melds into a continuous stunt performer exhibition, the impact dwindling with each brawl.

Away from the action, and in a rare case of too much character depth, Ava is surrounded by a daytime soap opera family. Geena Davis is a welcome screen presence, but mom Bobbi is both a drama queen and a heart attack victim. Sister Judy is a highly strung musician quick to erupt into tirades, and Michael is moving from one sister to the next without leaving his gambling addiction behind. Dad was a philanderer and Ava herself is a recovering alcoholic, rounding off an all-in dysfunctional family. 

The domestic scenes exist in a separate, almost dumbfounding movie, and the attempt to bring Ava's two worlds together at a gambling den showdown exposes the script's fundamental brittleness.

Ava looks cool, but gets iced by mediocrity.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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