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'Ava' Review: John Wick, she's not

So much talent wasted (in more ways than one) in another C-level Netflix Top 10 movie.

Jessica Chastain as Ava in "Ava" on Netflix.
(Image: Β© Voltage Pictures)

Our Verdict

With the likes of Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Colin Farrell, Geena Davis and Common on screen, you'd expect something more. But "Ava" lacks the mystery, depth and soul of "John Wick," and the frenetic pace of "Bourne."

For

  • πŸ•΄ The high-caliber talent is always great to watch.
  • πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ¦° More women in kick-ass lead roles, please.
  • πŸ‘¨πŸ» Collin Farrell's mustache.

Against

  • πŸ’₯ The plot is thin, at best.
  • πŸ’₯ A fun trailer doesn't make for a good movie.

I used to play golf with my grandfather and his friends. They could hit the ball a straight every single time, having been out on the course for decades. I knew how to play, knew the basic mechanics. At one point I could even say I wasn't awful. (Which in golf is the best many of us can wish for.) But I couldn't hit anywhere near as straight as consistent as the old men.

But golf isn't hand-to-hand combat between Colin Farrell and John Malkovich, with the old man holding his own against the (relative) youngster. And that's where Ava — another one of those sleeper "Top 10" wonders on Netflix — lost me.

Ava is trying its hardest to live in the same vein as John Wick. But it does so with quick and obvious edits and without the incredible gun-fu. The level of violence doesn't reach the same tenor and tenacity. It's just as unforgiving, but less sterile.

It's proof yet again that you can throw great talent — Jessica Chastain in the title role as a gifted assassin for some shadowy underworld corporation, Malkovich as her mentor and Farrell as the new "management" who also came up under Malkovich's character — have a trailer that looks absolutely watchable, and end up with a movie that leaves you thankful all it took from your was 90 minutes.

Despite the deep acting pool, there's not a lot of depth to this movie. Chastain is Ava, a recovering alcoholic who eight years ago left her fiancé and family and simply disappeared. Turns out in that time she went into the military and then into the "corporation" and has since been contracted 41 times. She's Bourne, without the brainwashing. But that's not to say that everything's OK up there. She's also a recovering alcoholic an at one point previously started asking her "subjects" what they did wrong that brought them to her door. But not in that sort of charming way that John Cusack managed to do in Grosse Pointe Blank. She's looking for a justification, when really all she's supposed to be is a tool. That didn't sit well with her bosses, and Duke (Malkovich) and the help of a high-powered gambling maven managed to get her set straight. 

For a while, anyway. Ava, on a job in Paris to take care of some good-looking suit who's more than happy to let Ava get too close, asks the subject what he did. (Ioan Gruffudd is that high in the credits for this? OK.) And a woman on a motorcycle is following and records the audio, which she then sends to her boss/father, Farrell's Simon. (It's nice they're keeping things in the family, I suppose.)

Simon recognizes this for what it is — a problem. Again. And this being a company in the business of killing, there's only one way to deal with problems. So on her next job in Riyadh, Ava is set up to fail, to make her "closing" look like a hit gone bad. Only Ava is Ava, and she gets out alive. Back in the States, she seeks out her mentor, Duke, who tells her just to lay low and it'll blow over. (And you almost believe he meant it.)

So of course Simon sends someone to try to kill Ava. And of course Ava turns the tables on the poor fool. And of course Duke confronts Simon about the whole thing, the two tussle, and Simon eventually overpowers the Yoda-like (prequels, of course) Duke. The quoting of Greek philosophy is a bit much. The only odd part is how Simon wants to send Ava a statement with Duke's death. Want to get on an assassin's bad side? Make it personal instead of business. (And business, by the way, is what Simon told Duke the "closing" of Ava was all about.) Is there something more there? Simon seems threatened by Ava in some other way. Who wouldn't be, I suppose, but it's one thread that's barely pulled.

Complicating matters is Ava's return to Boston. Her father recently died, her mother (Geena Davis) is in the hospital and her sister (Jess Weixler as Judy) is left caring for things. And Judy has shacked up with Ava's ex-fiance, Michael (Common).

All that is to say Ava, who already was on the edge, starts looking to the bottle again. At first it's a glance. Then an order and a deep sniff. Chastain makes you remember that smell. That feeling. And finally as the movie reaches its apex and Ava reaches her lowest, she conducts a raid on the minibar in the hotel room, which apparently does nothing to affect her aim and reflexes when Simon comes calling, never mind her years on the wagon.

Ultimately, though, Ava does what she does. And she does it with purpose, and without hesitation. She also does it without asking Simon what he did. She knows. (He sent it to her in video form, even.) Then she makes amends with her ex and her sister and heads out to disappear again, with Simon's daughter, Camille (Booksmart's Diana Silvers) silently following, just like she did in the opening scene. 

Good luck to her with that.