Kate isn’t doing anything new from an action-narrative perspective, but slick choreography and gleeful violence helps this girlboss brutality go down smoothly.
Kate, a female assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) discovers she’s been poisoned and has less than 24 hours to prowl the neon-lit streets of Tokyo to find her killer and exact vengeance. Oh, and she’s also been thrown together with Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau), the daughter of her last target. Kate is riddled with cliche and has next to nothing novel to offer narratively, but it’s rescued by brisk pacing, some tasty, well-orchestrated violence, and a prickly lead performance from Winstead.
If you’ve ever seen one of these things before, and chances are you have, you’ll spot the villain behind it all the second the character pops up on screen. Kate seems to know that’s not too terribly important, and moves on quickly to some lip-smacking violence. Bullets tend to land with meaty squibs (digital, but still), fights play out in longish takes punctuated by blades painfully penetrating bodies in places like the face or throat. Kate seems to take particular delight in stabbing an attacker 6 or 8 times in the same place all at once — it’s tough to not likewise delight in her fervor — and superb choreography from the 87North shop (formerly 87Eleven, the foundation of the John Wicks) makes it all go down smoothly.
Winstead herself seems to be having a pretty good time too, and as Kate gets put through the ringer physically, she leans into the character’s fatigue and anger, not to mention serious and repeated injury. Watching her take wild-eyed glee in snapping some henchman’s neck or jabbing a knife through his nose all while struggling to simply stay upright is a pleasure all its own. She’s carrying the show.
And while there might not be much new on display, in light of recent straight-to-streaming tough-babe action embarrassments like Jolt and Gunpowder Milkshake, Kate‘s brand of feminism is pretty refreshing. Instead of token girlboss cameos and an obligatory scene of a shitty dude doing some mansplaining, Winstead’s assassin seeks only agency; she’s got nothing to prove to a patriarchy, and the end result of her attempt to take control provides one of few truly bittersweet moments in an otherwise pretty routine exercise.
You can currently stream Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s Kate on Netflix.