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Review: 'Ava' (2020) Dir. Tate Taylor

Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Common, Geena Davis, John Malkovich, Joan Chen, Jess Weixler and Ioan Gruffudd


Another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, 'Ava' skips the cinema release and lands on VOD...

Assassin Ava (Chastain) works for The Company, overseen by mentor Duke (Malkovich) who in turn works for Simon (Farrell). Ava is good at her job, but constantly breaks protocol in her assassinations.

When her actions lead to a mission turning messy with many casualties, Simon turns up the heat to remind Ava of her failures and warns Duke she can't be protected forever if she keeps slipping up.

Struggling to battle her own inner-demons and that of her family, Ava finds that aspects of The Company are out to "close her down", and she ends up fighting for her life and career more than ever...

Tate Taylor's action effort with a strong, kick-ass female lead in the form of Jessica Chastain sadly falls into the shadow left behind the ones that have come before. Reduced to a VOD release in the wake of COVID-19, this actually feels more akin to that format rather than a big-screen release. At a brisk 90mins, there is little runtime to fit in everything Taylor wants in a good way, such as large character backstories and humanity behind the action. It's there, but very 2D and under-cooked. Basing a character's actions on the events of a broken childhood may work for some, but here it just feels a very over-used trait in these sort of films to make the hero more "broken".

The ladies that have led many action films in recent years fall into three categories. 1) Sci-fi warrior, 2) Superhero and 3) Assassin. 1 and 2 have been done, and done well and done with equal bravery in telling stories and pushing the boundaries for action. 3 is where this character type stumbles.

We have seen this recently with Jennifer Lawrence in 'Red Sparrow', Saiorse Ronan in 'Hanna', Blake Lively in 'The Rhythm Section' and Charlize Theron in 'Atomic Blonde'. All strong leads without doubt, but as characters they fall under the same old banner - ladies that can take down small armies whilst wearing high heels and cocktail dresses, using wigs and disguises and make-up gadgets that can kill a man in 5 seconds or less. Some do it very well. Others, like this, do not.

While entertaining for the most part, Ava is still a very recycled and lackluster character style we see again and again in the current wave of female-led action.

Chastain proves she has the energy, dexterity and passion for the action genre, running and jumping and fighting and shooting with her body double in tow for a few sporadic bursts of action. It's not an overly brutal film, and it's also nothing you haven't seen before in terms of story and style. Corrupt government officials and politicians are the targets, allies suspected of being enemies arise, missions go wrong and finding it hard who to trust. It's all the usual stuff sadly. Nothing different or brave in terms of story, character or style.

The talent is strong with the likes of John Malkovich, Colin Farrell, Common and Geena Davis, but their characters are, again, all 2D and ones we have seen before. However well they are played, there's nothing to them that is worth the strong appeal.

As slick and stylish as the many establishing shots are, and however well produced the synthetic score by famous TV composer Bear McCreary is, this is an example of style over substance that doesn't elevate the content or story to any big heights.

Drama or action film, 'Ava' thinks it is something bigger and more complex in terms of the genre and character type seen, but in reality it is shallow and lacking grit or originality.

'Ava' is a Vertical Entertainment production

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