Movie review: Ava
The archetypal female assassin is one of the must alluring creatures in cinema. A femme fatale with almost supernatural reflexes and a badass attitude, she seduces her targets in sexy outfits before unleashing her skill set.
With Ava, Jessica Chastain joins the sisterhood of movie hitwomen such as Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde), Jennifer Lawrence (Red Sparrow) and Angelina Jolie (Salt).
Although a phenomenal actress, she unfortunately lacks the star power and physicality of her predecessors and does not sell the part of the titular contract killer as convincingly.
In fact, she appears to be reprising her role as poker princess Molly Bloom from the 2017 film Molly's Game - with lethal UFC moves thrown in.
Chastain likely produced Ava to showcase a female protagonist whose tough exterior and steely resolve belie the brokenness within.
In between assignments and her interactions with her handler (John Malkovich) and his boss (Colin Farrell), which frankly are the best bits but too few and far between, we see Ava deal with excessive emotional baggage - daddy issues, mummy issues, sister issues, ex-boyfriend issues, alcohol addiction issues.
The action thriller also falls back on too many familiar genre cliches to truly set itself apart.
There are the usual double crossings, yearnings to lead a normal life and attempts to show how a murderer can still have a heart.
Supporting cast members seem to pop out of nowhere - and from a different movie even.
Common suddenly enters the picture midway as Ava's former lover, who just happens to have knocked her sister up.
Then there is a side plot about him getting mixed up in an underground gambling ring, which could simply be an excuse to include scenes of Joan Chen (as its owner) breaking bad, getting beaten up by Chastain and screaming her head off in Mandarin.
Aside from a final showdown between Chastain and Farrell, Ava's killer instinct is further dulled in the action department, as nothing comes close to the choreography involved in Atomic Blonde's famously savage stairwell fight scene.
The film also closes in a maddeningly open-ended way as if to suggest the possibility of a sequel, but let's just put a hit on that thought once and for all.
STARRING: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, John Malkovich, Geena Davis, Common
DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor
THE SKINNY: After a high-profile job goes wrong, deadly assassin Ava (Chastain) returns home in an attempt to repair her relationship with her family. But when the head (Farrell) of the black ops organisation she works for orders a hit on her, she is forced to fight for her survival.