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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

CineHawk Review: “Ava” action predictable snooze


“Ava” is a by-the-numbers spy thriller that follows the titular character as she finds herself in a desperate, and predictable, struggle for survival after being betrayed by the organization she served for 10 years. 

Directed by Tate Taylor from a screenplay by Matthew Newton, “Ava” stars Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Common, Geena Davis, Colin Farrell, Ioan Gruffudd and Joan Chen. The movie is available on Subscription Video on Demand due to COVID-19 movie theater closures.

The film opens with Ava Faulkner, played by Chastain, carrying out a typical hit on a criminal financier. It turns out to be a very appropriate scene, as it sets the stage for the mediocre, boilerplate offerings that the viewer is in store for throughout the next hour and a half. 

As if to cement this point, the opening scene is immediately followed by a two minute expository montage that has been done a hundred times before. It dumps most of Ava’s backstory in a sequence that can be considered mildly entertaining at best, if only for its fast editing. 

As for the plot, the assasination organization that Ava works for has grown increasingly fed up with the eponymous femme fatale’s tendency to speak with her targets prior to “closing” them. After a botched operation in Saudi Arabia, the organization decides what almost every assassin guild in almost every movie decides: to dispose of the highly skilled protagonist through comically disposable waves of henchmen. 

Actually, that last part is a lie, for a highly trained mercenary, who has shown she can cut through a dozen soldiers while barely taking a scratch, Ava’s former superiors surprisingly commit very few assets to taking her out. For a conspiracy thriller with this level of star power, there are also  few twists and turns, with a mere viewing of the first trailer telegraphing 90% of the film’s plot to a potential audience.

First and foremost, this is an action film. By that standard, it certainly passes the bar. The fight scenes are serviceable; they are not particularly bad, but none are particularly memorable, either. 

Like so many modern action movies, they rely heavily on the tried and tested “shaky cam.” This method involves rapidly moving the camera to make the action seem more chaotic and kinetic than it actually is. This also has the rather convenient benefit of masking the fact that most action stars are not the highly trained, immaculately choreographed martial artists they portray themselves to be. 

Speaking of choreography, it suits the film in its bare minimum competency. Very rarely does it show any particular creativity or ingenuity in leveraging Ava’s considerable skillset to solve the problems she faces. Combined with the cliché plot and story progression, this leads to fairly predictable and forgettable fights that the audience already knows the nigh-invulnerable protagonist will win. 

Perhaps the film’s only saving grace is its star-studded cast, especially its lead Chastain, who brings Ava to life with a performance that clearly deserves a far superior script. Aside from Chastain, the rest of the cast have varying degrees of success in their roles. Malkovich is never dull to watch, with his unmistakable delivery providing a slight elevation to an otherwise shallow role. 

Farrell is likewise enjoyable, but turns in nothing better than what is in his other projects. The weak link of the cast is Common, whose performance as Ava’s ex fiance, Michael, turned impending brother-in-law is wooden and unconvincing. 

Overall, “Ava” is just another cookie-cutter action flick with only the faintest sparks of enjoyability. Even a mostly competent and quite well known cast cannot overcome the script’s boring predictability and the direction’s unimaginative choreography.

Rating: 2/10 Hawks

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