• 05 Sep - 11 Sep, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Have you ever wanted to see Colin Farrell and John Malkovich in a brutal mano a mano? Or Jessica Chastain beat up a French killer in a Boston park after dark, or get into a catfight with fierce nightclub-cum-gambling-den owner Joan Chen? Ava, directed by Tate Taylor, gives you all that and more.

And yet despite those obvious highlights, it’s hard to recommend Ava as a whole. The action scenes are often flat, and Chastain’s top-class assassin character and her family and colleagues are burdened with so many dramatic backstories – Alcoholism! Drugs! Daddy issues! A jilted lover now engaged to her sibling! –~that the whole exercise starts to feel more than faintly ridiculous even before the first act is over.

Bostonian tough girl and former army recruit Ava (Chastain) used to be a drug addict and alcoholic. Now, Ava’s the best killer working for Duke (Malkovich), who is aware of her past and its risks but has a fatherly soft spot for her. Besides Duke, the only other person from the vague black-ops organisation we get to meet is Simon (Farrell), who was Duke’s disciple before Ava – an Ava avant la lettre if you will.

When a routine operation at the German Embassy in Riyadh goes haywire, Ava manages to get out. But people are now after her, too. This is somewhat inconvenient for Ava, who has returned to the relative quiet of her family in Boston after years of supposedly working deadly boring jobs abroad. That means trying to patch things up with her sister Jude (Jess Weixler), who’s pissed she didn’t come home for Dad’s recent funeral; their aloof mom (Geena Davis), who’s been hospitalised; and unlucky good egg Michael (Common), who used to date Ava but who – after Ava inexplicably “fled” abroad – is now in a relationship with Jude.

It not only feels like there’s too much family trauma to keep track of, but also that none of these subplots has enough space to develop into something resonant.

Chastain is utterly convincing in another tough-as-nails role. If audiences stick with the movie, it's largely thanks to her movie-star charisma, which almost compensates for the increasingly ridiculous plot. Malkovich and Farrell seem to understand they are A-list talent in B-movie roles, and relish the opportunity. With the exception of Joan Chen, who can do no wrong, the actors making up the Boston homefront are on less sure footing, though this doubtless has to do at least as much with the script as anything else.

– Compilation