What the Hell was Jessica Chastain or any of these fine talents thinking?!
“Ava” is Jessica Chastain’s first collaboration with director Tate Taylor since “The Help,” and it’s not a very good one. In fact, it’s their worst entry to date, full of one stupid moment, one insipid character, one wasted talent, and one lifeless action sequence after another. The premise makes absolutely no sense, as it tries and fails to splice the action movie genre with the family drama cliches. I don’t even know what “Ava” wants to be.
Chastain has an elaborate career with the likes of “The Tree of Life,” “The Help,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Interstellar,” “Molly’s Game,” and “The Martian” being honored in her filmography. But in “Ava,” she degrades herself with how she presents her attitude and characterization. It was originally supposed to be directed by Matthew Newton, but had to be replaced by Taylor, due to the allegations aimed against him for domestic violence and assault. They kept Newton’s screenplay, but they should have burned it when they had the chance, because it’s a stupid one.
She plays Ava Faulkner, an assassin and former alcoholic, who manages to kill her targets without the feds tracking her down. Her boss Duke (John Malkovich) is a lame, wasted version of M, who gives her instructions on her next assignments, but refuses to help her out of a jam. His superior Simon (Colin Farrell) is aggravated at how Ava talks to her targets, and orders an assassin to whack her. She turns the tables on him.
On the side, we get a generic subplot about Ava’s estranged sister Judy (Jess Weixler), her ex-fiancee Michael (Common), and their sick mother (Geena Davis), all of whom basically turn their backs on her for abandoning them for her missions. Ava ran away to join the army, after her dead father had an affair, and lies to her mother about her stealing money from him. Judy comes crawling to her, when Michael is in a gambling debt of $80,000 to the no-nonsense Toni (Joan Chen). And to clarify the first part of this paragraph, Michael was engaged to Ava, until she left him without saying a word about her family drama, and now, he’s engaged to Judy.
The only actors who marginally work are Common when his character criticizes Ava for leaving him without, at least, talking to him about her problems, and Diana Silvers as Simon’s daughter, when she eavesdrops on Ava’s conversations with her targets. But none of them have any character development. Everyone else from Chastain to Malkovich to Davis to Chen to Weixler is wasted and poorly acted.
How is this even a script?! How did anyone not overlook this and feel that it was a concept to begin with? There’s nothing unique inside, and misses one opportunity after another. Ava’s alcoholic story has no pay-off, the corrupt businessmen she must eliminate are blandly written, and the ending is all phony in the way it sets itself up for a sequel, which will never happen.
The last excellent movie Taylor made was “Get On Up,” which had the recently departed Chadwick Boseman portraying James Brown,” but lately he’s lost his touch with “The Girl On The Train,” “Ma,” and now “Ava.” It will sell no tickets, it will not amuse you from start to finish. It’s nothing but a complete waste of time.
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