Lou (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A storm rages. A young girl is kidnapped. Her mother teams up with the mysterious woman next door to pursue the kidnapper, a journey that tests their limits and exposes shocking secrets from their pasts.

My Take – While there is no doubt that the Liam Neeson starring Taken (2008) can be deemed as a mindless action entertainer, one can’t deny that it opened up an avenue for the older generation to prove that they didn’t have to be young and muscular to showcase their ability to kick ass in front of the camera.

Allowing almost every other male actor in the age range to attempt their version of a Taken-esque thriller. A trend which in recent times has allowed actresses of the similar age group, who previously usually shuffled from mom or married to characters, to take up arms in a genre which has traditionally ignored them.

Such is the case of these Allison Janney starrer which at first glance looked like a gender-flipped Taken but ends up being more nuanced with equal amounts of grit. Although slightly overlong, the film produced by J. J. AbramsBad Robot Productions, which was initially setup at Paramount who dropped it until it was picked up by Netflix, doesn’t break too far from the established formula of this kind of action thriller, yet manages to be constantly engaging while delivering on the suspense and character one would expect from this type of film.

Allowing director Anna Foerster (Underworld: Blood Wars), backed by a decent script from Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley, to prove her skills as an action/thriller director, while making sure her film more than measures up to those led by Janney‘s male counterparts. Yes, the film does have a twist or two relating to certain character relationships and like most twists related to this type of genre, most will see it coming. Nevertheless, it works well enough thematically to deliver as a gritty minimalist action thriller.

The story follows Lou Adell (Allison Janney), who in a secluded part of the Pacific Northwest lives a solitary life with her dog Jax. Haunted by something or someone, she now lives an intentionally simple life. With her only regular contact being with single mother Hannah Dawson (Jurmee Smollett) and her daughter Vee (Ridley Bateman) who rent property on Lou’s land. While she gets prepares to finally kill herself, Lou ends up finding a renewed purpose when a panicked Hannah arrives at her with a request for help.

As it turns out, Hannah’s abusive and presumed dead ex Phillip (Logan-Marshall-Green) has kidnapped Vee with plans to get out of the island. Tapping into her dormant skill set and long buried wounds that made her who she is, Lou, with the help of her dog Jax, and Hannah, go off into the forest in search of Phillip and Vee, a task made difficult by the storm that has hit the island.

Here, director Foerster takes a more subdued approach to visual storytelling, focusing on the individuals to drive the story while juggling two stories to uncover secrets about their life. In doing so, she gives severely flawed characters a human quality that allows viewers to empathize with them on an emotional level even though it would seem like they don’t deserve it. It helps that the efficient script doesn’t get mired by bloated exposition scenes or an overabundance of action beats.

However, the film remains entertaining throughout thanks to Janney‘s committed performance and director Foerster‘s action film intelligence that is good enough to conceal the shortcomings that are abundant here.  Having directed great action sequences for the better part of her television career, here, Foerster scatters entertaining action film clichés throughout this first act, alongside some inventive ideas.

The first major fight scene between Lou and these colleagues of Philip is also promising. It’s a bruising, bloody encounter that involves all manner of household items, ending with Lou’s innovative use of a tin can to slice and dice the henchmen.

She also masterfully uses the dense, natural environment of British Columbia and the relentless onslaught of the rain to slowly reveal the depth and prowess of Lou’s abilities. The landscape provides the bulk of the physical challenges they encounter, which builds up a very effective tension the deeper the women travel towards Vee.

The final set piece and fight scene, though pretty ridiculous, is also done very well, with tight editing and gorgeous cinematography. Director Foerster’s film isn’t interested in total reinvention, nor is it particularly concerned with deconstructing and challenging genre tropes.

Performance-wise, Allison Janney is as excellent as one would expect. Her Lou, like countless action stars before her, is a woman of few words but when she does deign to speak, Janney makes sure to deliver the dialogue with either black humor or a bluntness that ends up revealing plenty about just who she is.

Jurmee Smollett‘s performance as an abuse survivor is also quite engaging and Logan Marshall-Green a solidly done antagonist even if they’re not as compelling as Janney‘s role. In supporting roles, Ridley Asha Bateman and Matt Craven are strong. On the whole, ‘Lou’ is a gritty compelling action thriller anchored by a solid lead performance from Allison Janney.

Directed –

Starring – Jurnee Smollett, Logan Marshall-Green, Allison Janney

Rated – R

Run Time – 107 minutes

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