2020 will be a conundrum in terms of what is a success and what is not, especially considering that even very promising films have struggled to break even on VOD — though large losses can often be justified if it sells people on a streaming service, like Disney’s “Mulan” remake and “Soul” did with Disney Plus.
2020’s “Ava” has bounced around a bit, initially releasing theatrically in Hungary before finding a limited release in America, and spending a brief time on DirecTV Cinema, before ultimately ending up on Netflix, boasting a box office of $3.3 million, but I’m not sure how much it’s made on VOD.
But money aside, we can certainly discuss whether or not the film was a critical success. “Ava” follows the titular Ava Faulkner (Jessica Chastain), who is a former addict and soldier turned assassin. The company Ava works for is extremely shady, and her arrangement is set up so she knows as little as possible, and she finds herself in a bit of trouble when she starts interacting with her targets.
She is overseen by Duke (John Malkovich), who fights with company insider Simon (Colin Farrell) over keeping Ava alive. At the same time, Ava returns home after the death of her father, and reconnects with her mother, Bobbi (Geena Davis), and sister, Judy (Jess Weixler), who married her ex-fiancé, Michael (Common). They all have passable chemistry, though the story with her family and Michael — and her complicated relationship with her father — feel more like filler to waste time than something that enhances the film. It tries to bring up the psychological effects of addiction through Ava and Michael — who has an ongoing gambling addiction — but what we get is surface-level, poorly written, and not necessarily representative of what it feels like to suffer from addiction.
The plot is predictable, and the action is standard to laughably bad. For a brief couple of moments, during a party, the film gets stylistically interesting with its action, but the sequence crumbles embarrassingly when it loses momentum. I watched “John Wick” (2014) after this film, and by comparison, it made this film look really amateur. If you haven’t seen an action film in a while, it’s mostly passable, but when you compare it to a competent film like “John Wick”, where every punch, kick and bullet has a purpose, “Ava”‘s action is like watching people flop all over the floor for a few minutes until somebody eventually gets kicked in the head.
Chastain, Malkovich, and Farrell all do excellent jobs, and had the film managed to pair their good performances with good action, I would consider this film a critical success. “Ava” is a very mediocre action film with bad action, a great cast, and a dumb script. Unfortunately, what the film does right is not enough to keep it afloat.
If you really like Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell or John Malkovich, you might be able to justify seeing this film despite its flaws. But if you don’t have any connection to the leads, this film is not worth checking out.
“Ava” gets a 4/10