Hollywood is always searching for trends, and when Luc Besson hired Liam Neeson to become his lead in the actioner Taken, he didn’t know that he was creating a trend that would survive more than a decade later. The trend, if you didn’t know, is to grab older actors and put them inside an action movie. One that, decades before, would only be reserved for action stars at the peak of their youth. Taken’s success shows that age was not a limiter when it comes to delivering a good action film, and so everyone started making one of these movies. Netflix arrives with Lou, the latest of the trend chasers.
Lou is directed by Anna Foerster and stars Allison Janney, Jurnee Smollet, and Logan Marshall-Green. The film tells the story of Hannah, a mother, and her daughter Vee. One day, during a dreadful storm, Vee gets kidnapped, and Hannah has no one to ask for help from. No one, except for her hermit neighbor, a woman named Lou. Lou is harsh and sarcastic, but she also has a wonderful set of skills that might help Hannah recover her child from the kidnapper. What follows is a survival road trip against time and nature.
Allison Janney is an Oscar Winner. She is the kind of actor that is often labeled as a character-actor, transforming herself into whatever role the story needs out of her. She has made countless movies, and it begs the reason she is one of the most respected figures in Hollywood. You want her in your movie. She is always good. So yeah, she is very good in Lou, an action film that serves her well as a vehicle to kick ass. The trend of old-timer actioners has been plagued mostly by men, so it feels refreshing to get into at least one of them that is led by a woman.
Lou has many things in its favor. Allison Janney in the main role, and also having Jurnee Smollet as the other protagonist, really makes a difference. Most of the movie consists of the relationship between the two women as they learn about each other in the search for Vee. The story takes place in very hostile territory, and the movie ends up having a bit of a survival story, even when the movie is sold as an actioner. Janney’s character Lou has a number of skills that really make things go smoothly, so the film isn’t innocent of committing a bit too many conveniences.
The overall plot is quite simple, but when the reveals and twists start coming, the story gets a bit convoluted and the motivations of the characters, while they are explained to us, are hard to accept. Not because they are unrealistic or anything like that, but because the movies didn’t take the proper time to establish all the necessary elements so that the revelations might fit into a more coherent whole. You can still understand everything that is happening, but the feeling that things could have been a lot smoother is ever-present.
From a technical standpoint, director Anna Foerster and her team really know how to make a good movie. The cinematography is solid, nothing spectacular that will blow your mind, but it is a lot of times better than most action movies out there. For example, during the action sequences, the cutting is kept to a minimum, which allows us to see what is truly happening on screen. There are, of course, cuts here and there and tricks to hide the fact that a woman of Janney’s age possibly couldn’t do much of this in real life. However, the film sells the illusion pretty well.
Janney and Smollet are fantastic, and while the two characters never see completely eye to eye. You can really feel that by the end there is mutual respect, which is always good to see and makes for an entertaining dynamic between the characters. Logan Marshall-Green is an incredible actor, but here, he feels like the weakest link of the cast. Lately, most of his roles have been too exaggerated, and they become almost cartoons or parodies of bad guys. Here, his role as Philip almost falls into the same category.
In the end, Lou feels like a pretty solid project and a good movie overall. The conveniences in the plot and the convoluted reveals hurt the film a bit, but not enough that you won’t be entertained while watching the movie. Having an actioner led by a woman of Janney’s age also feels fantastic. There are so many ladies out there that could also do this and do it well. Maybe Janney will be the one to start the trend for women in Hollywood now that the men’s side of the trend has been almost exhausted.
Lou might be forgettable, and maybe you won’t remember it by the time the credits start rolling, but it is entertaining enough to make it worthwhile. The action is solid, the performances are great too, and the plot serves as the perfect excuse to see Janney kick ass, which is something very few people thought could happen in a movie. Nevertheless, here we are, so if you’re looking to kill some time on a lazy Sunday, this is the movie for you.