On the big screen: ‘Ava’

Ava” (2020) is a spy action movie directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help” (2011)), produced by and starring Jessica Chastain

The story follows Ava, an assassin in a secret Black Ops organization. When she shows signs of disobeying protocol, her agency decides to tie up loose ends and get rid of her, or so the synopsis claims. In reality, most of the movie centers around her past alcoholism and her fraught relationships with her family. Despite a promising cast, the movie misses almost every mark.

The writing is unimaginative and confusing. With a run time of only about 90 minutes, viewers get the sense that much of the script may have been cut down. Dialogue among characters is not fluid and information is blatantly left out, leaving us to fill in the spaces. It’s obvious that this was done for dramatic effect, but it comes across as forced and lazy.

The path to the end of the movie is not an arc — it’s a confusing knot of attempted emotions with some action tropes woven in. Ava’s relationship with her family is simply a way to make her appear unstable, which itself is only written as a reason for her organization to take her out. Her alcoholism ends up being completely unimportant, as does her twice-mentioned dead father. Each plot decision seems somewhat arbitrary, and by the end of the movie, you’re left wondering if any of the events had to occur at all. 

The acting wasn’t great either, even with stars such as Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Colin Farrell and actor/rapper Common. They weren’t helped by the poor script, of course, but I didn’t get the sense that anyone was taking on the role of their character. I only saw Chastain, Malkovich and Farrell playing themselves. Chastain gave a cold performance of a troubled agent, allowing for brief moments of emotion to peek through, but it felt forced and disjointed. Malkovich was not convincing as an experienced mentor to Chastain’s assassin, and Farrell was borderline annoying. The film leaves you feeling the same way about the characters in the end as you did at the beginning: uninterested. 

Action sequences were few and far between, but even those scenes seemed to just go through the motions. You could see each actor working through their choreography as opposed to genuinely fighting. The action was edited in a choppy manner, most likely to make filming more efficient, but it takes you out of the scene and removes all intensity. I found myself uninvested in the outcome of any given moment, as there were simply no stakes.

“Ava” was the most popular movie on Apple TV in its opening weekend, but you should save yourself the $7. Cliché after cliché lead you through a story that only gets more absurd, leaving you unsatisfied and, frankly, wondering how filmmakers can mess up movies so badly. I watched this movie so that you didn’t have to.