Review: 'Sweet Girl' (2021) Dir. Brian Andrew Mendoza
Brian Andrew Mendoza plays it safe for his directorial debut with an action thriller that explores the power of family going up against corruption after everything is taken away from them...
Ray Cooper (Momao) and his daughter Rachel (Merced) are united by the grief and sudden loss after wife and mother Amanda (Arjona) dies from cancer after a potential live-saving treatment is pulled from use.
Fuelled by a desire for vengeance against BioPrime Medical CEO Simon Keeley (Bartha) for pulling the treatment, Ray and Rachel decide to go up against a potential political scandal and find the truth by whatever means.
However, their journey is one full of danger and deception, with key figures involved who can't afford to let their secret get out, and have Ray and Rachel in their sights to silence at all costs before it is too late...
In the opening twenty minutes we move from present day to "years earlier", to "six months later" and then "two years later". Keep up with the jumps, and it encompasses everything at the core this by-the-book action film. We have heart, we have family, we have vengeance, we have corruption and we have confrontation. Produced by lead star Jason Momoa and under his production company, this feels like a vehicle solely for him to flex some of his acting chops and more grounded action performance away from the fantasy and CGI work of Aquaman in the DCEU.
Momoa does a good job as a family man hurt by unexpected loss, and gets to do some good acting above being just an invincible superhero. Here he gets to showcase a range of emotions, and a real mix of compassion, rage, pride and love.
For that reason, it works more so with solid support from young Isabela Merced as his fiery daughter Rachel, who you really can see channel Momoa's spirit of family and vengeance. The two are part of the idyllic, peaceful American family before tragedy pulls them apart and unites them at the same time.
Momoa and Merced bounce off each other in their quest to find the ones behind a shady coverup that took everything from them - they are convincing in their journey for revenge.
Away from this, it's standard action / thriller stuff. A hired hitman guns his way across the plot like a Terminator taking out everyone in a flurry of explosions, gunshots and knife attacks all shot to make it look badass. FBI agents who believe the innocents. Bumper crunching cars and trucks used in chases and as battering rams. Shady Government officials, lawmen and health workers who may or may not be good or bad. Bribes, corruption, grief, loss...everything you've seen before.
It serves a purpose for being by-the-book, and it's a dark and brooding affair shot across snowy Pittsburgh with Momoa able to add some sinister touches to the man who has everything to lose, but is driven by his daughter and so has everything to life for. The story as a whole just lacks anything new or original, and appears a little undercooked away from the snapshots of well shot fight sequences.
While it's entertaining enough as a brainless thriller to come in at just under two hours that could have been something better if the core emotional focus of Momao and Merced had been sustained, prepare yourself for a climax that could potentially throw everything you've just read out the water.
You'll love it or hate it! The twist, that is.
A familiar revenge story, structure and action allows Momoa to act more then just being a superhero, but everything else falls short of being anything memorable (bar the love it / hate it plot twist).
'Sweet Girl' is a co-production between ASAP Entertainment and Pride of Gypsies