Synopsis – A devastated husband vows to bring justice to the people responsible for his wife’s death while protecting the only family he has left, his daughter.
My Take – Right from the very first scene, this latest Netflix release seemed like a fairly standard revenge action thriller with an overly familiar one man against an industry theme. Typical flicks which usually the saw the likes of Charles Bronson or Liam Neeson delivering their own brand of vengeance for the harm members of their family suffered. Though the settings and the quality of the films have differed depending upon the lead and the production, their sense of justice for the every man has always remained constant.
Here, marking his directional debut, Jason Momoa’s producing partner, Brian Andrew Mendoza seemed to be taking a jab at the profit oriented pharmaceutical industry using old-fashioned techniques and no-nonsense thrills. Offering low-key unsentimental brutality unleashed by Jason Mamoa on the wrong doers.
That is until, with 30 minutes left in its 110 minutes run time, the film throws in a twist we never see coming, hereby undoing even the tiniest goodwill it had earned in an already mediocre film up until that point.
Considering the real world scenario, the concept of an ordinary man taking on brutally rich people while dodging the authorities is already a far-fetched fantasy scenario, and as an audience we are meant to be entertained by such fictional scenarios with suspended disbelief, but here, director Mendoza and his writers, Philip Eisner and Gregg Hurwitz, with their last minute twist want us to also accept an alternative version of an already impossible situation.
While admittedly I was left astounded with the sudden curve ball, but I also think by shifting the gear so suddenly without much context, it further undermined the straight film by making it tacky.
The story follows Ray Cooper (Jason Momoa) who seems to be living a blessed family life with his wife, Amanda (Adria Arjona), and their daughter Rachel (Isabela Merced). However, the return of Amanda’s cancer throws their idyllic life into jeopardy, leaving them dependent on a certain generic chemotherapeutic drug from a major pharmaceutical company called BioPrime for her survival.
Unfortunately for them, Simon Keeley (Justin Bartha), the company’s CEO, makes the decision of pulling this cheaper medicine out of the market in favor of their more expensive one, leaving Amanda dry.
Confused and angered by this decision, Ray ends up threatening the unscrupulous Keeley on live television, and following her death, he begins delivering on the promised warpath of revenge against the men he holds responsible, tagging Rachel along by his side. Meanwhile they are continuously pursued by Amos Santos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a hired killer and FBI Agent Sarah Meeker (Lex Scott Davis), the one officer interested in hearing Rachel’s side.
Though at one point it felt like that the film might move into legal thriller territory offering Momoa a chance to flex his dramatic muscles, it heads into expected territory the moment the hit man and the henchmen come into the picture. It also helps that film offers a few sequences showing both Ray and Rachel undergoing MMA training. The narrative also employs some gear changes mid-way, hoping to build momentum with a car chase and a chase to the roof of a baseball stadium.
However, the trouble begins when the film begins delivering fairly conventional action. The set pieces are largely disposable right from the get-go with a train-set incompetently edited and shot. A dire lack of creativity and fun permeates the rest of the sequences, clearly proving that director Mendoza and his writers have no action film instincts whatsoever.
And then comes the twist that doesn’t improve the film and undoes any goodwill the film had built up to that point, and recasts the whole story in a new light. While it explains a few of the film’s odder moments and may very well have blown filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s mind, these revelations carry no insight and it doesn’t have the impact I think it had aimed for, which meant it didn’t serve as too much of a distraction for the rest of the film and we quickly got back on that gloriously comfortable but slightly safe action-thriller track.
One can’t help but imagine the filmmakers laying out the better story and then spreading a layer of bland cliché on top. If the misleading title hadn’t already, this blindsiding will surely leave a bitter aftertaste. It even offsets the simple consolatory pleasures of watching a dad and daughter fight against the system.
There is no doubt that Jason Momoa is a very charismatic actor and looks like a guy who would be very credible in a fight, thankfully, he keeps his end of the bargain and does well. Isabela Merced shows a bit of range and rage as well, especially in scenes which required her to show her struggle through grief and mourning.
As the assassin on their chase, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is effectively menacing, while in other roles, Adria Arjona, Lex Scott Davis, Justin Bartha, Amy Brenneman, Raza Jaffrey, and Michael Raymond-James are alright. On the whole, ‘Sweet Girl’ is an expendable action thriller marred by an appalling ludicrous third act twist.
Directed – Brian Andrew Mendoza
Rated – R
Run Time – 110 minutes