For a hot minute, Mary Elizabeth Winstead was everyone’s indie crush, appearing in quirky movies where she flexed her acting chops. But she’s always had this other side to her, the ability to flex muscle as well as chops, appearing in the Die Hard franchise among other movies consisting mainly of running and shooting, up to and including her most recent credit in Birds of Prey as The Huntress. Perhaps this duality is inevitable; reigning indie queen Florence Pugh has recently made the leap into the MCU as Yelena in Black Widow (and I’m guessing beyond). Winstead isn’t the first to trend this way, but she’s certainly an excellent example, believably tough and resilient, yet adding dimension to her characters with a humanity and vulnerability that many action movies don’t make time for.
In Kate, she plays an assassin who has 24 hours to find and punish her murderer. Yes you read that right. Someone wanted her to suffer; she knows she’s going to die, and it becomes increasingly and wincingly apparent throughout the film. But as she methodically machetes her way through Tokyo, she finds herself bonding with and pairing with the daughter of one of her previous victims, Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau). It’s a uniquely interesting relationship that allows Kate the time to atone for some of her sins, but also to come to terms with the cost of her life’s choices. She’s leaving chaos and violence in her wake, and she’s determined to make a little more before she goes.
Kate’s heart bleeds vengeance. Her eyes bleed blood. She drags her broken body through the garish neon lights of Tokyo fueled by her thirst for revenge and motivated by the only sort of legacy she can leave. Winstead plays Kate with a lot of grit; she is ruthless yet compassionate. She is a woman forced to reckon with her transgressions in the hours before her death, even as she adds to them. Winstead makes sure that Kate is a surprisingly complex character as she crawls toward her doom, destruction in her wake, and possibly her own soul, determined to finish one last job for her handler (Woody Harrelson), the only family she’s ever known.
Kate more than earns its R-rating in bloody violence; fight scenes are tautly directed by
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Ring), and even though there’s a strong narrative component, the action is so relentless there’s hardly room to breathe. Kate drops on Netflix this Friday, September 10th, and I think you’ll find it unusually hard to be disappointed.