How Netflix has sold another movie about an assassin with nothing left to lose.
There have been a number of movies in the last several years that have, essentially, taken different approaches to the John Wick model, that being a story about an assassin or hired killer who goes off the reservation for one reason or another. This week’s new Netflix release Kate, directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, follows in that sub-genre.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate, a highly proficient hitwoman working for the yakuza. When an assignment goes wrong, her employers decide to end their arrangement, poisoning Kate with an agent that will slowly kill her over 24 hours. With that much time to live, she decides to make the most of it by seeking out and killing those who have doomed her.
announcements and casting
After acquiring the project in script form in 2017, Winstead was cast in 2019, as was Harrelson.
the marketing campaign proper
Kate already suspects she’s been setup as the trailer (1.2m views onYouTube), released in early August, opens. She tells Varrick (Harrelson) as much, including that she believes she was poisoned before the botched hit, which was on the head of the yakuza. With her new friend Ani (Miku Martineau) in tow, and as her body slowly fails, she sets out to find the person responsible for setting her up, working through Tokyo’s underbelly one henchman and mid-level lackey at a time.
The brightly-colored poster came out at the same time. It shows Kate (looking very much the worse for wear as she holds her gun at the ready), Ani and Varrick in a neon frame that, along with the signs seen in the background, establishes the Tokyo setting. Above the title is the copy “There’s no time for mercy” that hints at the ticking clock nature of the story.
A more distilled version of the story was included in short promo spots like this that were published and run at the end of August and into early September.
An interview with Winstead had her talking about the refreshing lack of overtly gendered costumes and other elements along with how her stunt training for this film was able to build on what she was already doing for Birds of Prey.
There were a couple other interviews with the star, but most of them only briefly touched on this movie, instead focusing on her thoughts around returning as Huntress in another BoP entry.
Reviews haven’t been overly positive, as the movie only has a 34% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And yes, there have been at least two or three other movies about a female assassin out for revenge on the employers who have turned on her recently. But the same can be said for movies about men seeking revenge on those who killed their family, so I’m not sure that’s a valid criticism in and of itself.
The campaign Netflix ran has a lot of nice elements, but what comes across most to me is that it shows how versatile and yet tragically underused Mary Elizabeth Winstead is. That alone should generate some level of interest, with others vaguely aware of the movie until it turns up as a recommendation on Netflix and it’s deemed “good enough” on a Thursday afternoon.