Ava entertains with intelligent action and an impressive cast. This one hour and 36-minute action thriller stars Jessica Chastain in yet another convincingly tough role. This time she’s assassin Ava Faulkner and director Tate Taylor at the helm.
If the characters only have one first name, then you know they’re dangerous. This list includes the sadistic Simon (Colin Farrell), Ava’s “handler” Duke (John Malkovich), Camille (Diana Silvers), and crime lord Toni (Joan Chen). Ioan Gruffudd also stars as Peter in an important beginning sequence.
Knowing who’s who in these worlds actually creates unwanted predictability…the previews also give away much of the plot. It would have been better if the other characters, except Duke, would eventually reveal themselves and their intentions. Not knowing who’s in black ops and who is not would’ve added more welcome surprises. Casting might have been different in this case as well…who really looks like an assassin or someone who would manage them. This constant danger would elevate each encounter. For example, begin the film with Peter as a lethal co-worker ordered to take her out instead of an unknowing target. This approach would have given Tate (Ma, The Girl on the Train) more opportunities for even more visceral content.
Ava also becomes a family affair as Ava revisits her roots, namely her hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, mother Bobbi (Geena Davis), sister Judy (Jess Weixler), and ex-fiancé Michael (Common, who unfortunately does not really get in the action as the poster falsely advertises… guess he had his big moment cut).
The beginning montage gives some background on Ava and her unique world, particularly when her yearbook shows she “knows how to throw a killer party.” Chastain handles the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the character well making her as believable as a superhero, so when a major past vice is revealed, the audience can predictably guess her “kryptonite” moment of weakness. It’s the only way she could be in a compromising position since the plot does not convince the audience she could be overpowered in other ways like being outnumbered.
Music composer Bear McCreary (Colossal) impresses with his score. It’s fast-paced at times like something you hear in a club or your workout mix then gets creative by incorporating battles into the score. Songs from Goldfrapp feat. David Gahan (as Dave Gahan) and Studio Musicians also enhance and boost the emotional factor in the action and thrills. Cinematographer Stephan Goldblatt keeps the action shots sharp and the globetrotting locations including Barneville-Carteret also add appeal.
Overall, Ava is fairly predictable fare …and controversial as screenwriter Matthew Newton stepped down as director after getting charged in the assault of his girlfriend. Recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and rated R for violence and language throughout, and brief sexual material. Hopefully the possible sequel will improve a potential series. Chastain also produced the project with Kelly Carmichael (The Chaperone) for Freckle Films, alongside Voltage Pictures’ Nicolas Chartier (The Hurt Locker, Killer Joe) & Dominic Rustam (I Feel Pretty).