New to Netflix from today is the action-thriller, Lou. The movie – directed by Anna Foerster – stars Allison Janney, Jurnee Smollett, and Logan Marshall-Green, and follows the story of a mysterious and skilled woman who assists in the recovery of a kidnap victim.

In the movie, Lou is a grizzled loner, living a simple, meagre existence with her dog. She is also suicidal, and in recent days she has come close to ending her life.

That is, until one night, during a heavy storm, as her finger is close to pulling the trigger on her shotgun, she is interrupted by her distraught neighbour, Hannah, who asks for her assistance in finding her missing daughter. During the course of the night, Hannah’s estranged ex-husband, Philip – a former green beret – has broken into her house to kidnap their child, and is now on the run.

Lou agrees to help, and both head off into the storm to search for the young girl. But what Hannah doesn’t know, is that Lou has a secret, and her familiarity with a gun, as well as her ability to track people, may offer a hint about her former life.

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Now, as I begin this review, let me start by saying Lou is a fairly decent action-thriller. It is nothing amazing, nor is it bad; but it is enjoyable enough and certainly works fine for a one-time watch.

Yet, despite the fact I found the movie to be enjoyable enough, my enthusiasm for Lou is a little muted. This is not because I found the content of the film to be particularly problematic, it’s simply because Lou lives and dies by one thing alone – a performance from one actor.   

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At the heart of the movie is the title character, as played by the ever-dependable Allison Janney. Janney is excellent in the film, taking on the role of a ‘rough and ready’ hero, and she commands the screen at every opportunity.

However, remove Janney from this picture, and Lou is not much more than a run-of-the-mill action-thriller. Again, it’s not bad stuff, but it all feels very much like a low-rent TV movie – the sort of thing you would stumble across while surfing the channels during the late ‘80s or early ‘90s.

With Janney on board, the film feels like it is elevated. Without her, there wouldn’t be much going on.

For the record, I feel as if Janney is very committed to this movie. I expect she delved deep into the psyche of her character, spent a great deal of time coming up with little nuances to make Lou feel real, and did everything she could to bring this character to life.

As for everyone else? I think they just read the script and turned up for work.

I’m not trying to poo-poo their performances, but Janney stands head-and-shoulders above every other cast member in this film. It is as if she is working on one project, while her colleagues are working on another.

However, they are all ultimately working on the same thing, and what that thing is, is a very simple movie, which does what it says on the tin. It is a film which has an explosion, a few fight scenes here and there, and some discussions about the CIA.

Is this enough? Yeah, just about; but don’t expect much more.

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Lou is a film which is largely about a kidnapping, a rescue attempt, and a resolution. There’s a couple of additional plot points along the way, but that’s about it.

However, despite its shortcomings in the story department, it does tick along quite nicely. It could do with being a few minutes shorter, but it doesn’t feel stodgy or overly padded.

The movie also benefits from some decent visuals. The setting and the landscape in this film is used quite effectively, and this creates a sense of adventure and spectacle.

Again, nothing amazing, but it works OK. This is a direct-to-streaming title, rather than a big screen story, and what it brings to the table as far as visuals go, does feel very much suited to home viewing.

As for any other plus points, well, there’s a rather nice dog, and a great little action sequence set in a cabin. I’d be stretching things if I said there was much more, but hey, who doesn’t love a rather nice dog?!

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Ultimately, Lou is a film that feels like it could have gone bigger if it had the budget, but it is watchable nonetheless. I expect those who give it a go will stick with it, find it entertaining for as long as it lasts, but are unlikely to think too much about it once it finishes.  

Lou is a ‘watch with a takeaway and a beer’ kind of film, meaning its easy viewing, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Lower your expectations, enjoy Janney’s performance, and take the movie for what it is.

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