Plot: 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.
Review: For every heavily marketed movie premiering on Netflix, there are dozens that fly under the radar. More often than not, these movies are throwaway programming designed to bulk up the selection that Netflix has to offer but every now and then there is a solid flick that is worth your attention. Lou is an unexpected action movie with an even more unexpected lead role from Oscar-winning actress Allison Janney who earns a spot alongside Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Bob Odenkirk, and Joey King in the John Wick school of action heroes. A nice throwback to action movies of the 80s and 90s, Lou is a badass thriller that should be at the top of everyone’s streaming list this weekend.
The best thing about Lou is that the trailer does not give away too much of the plot. Set in the 1980s, the film concerns a single mother, Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), who lives with her daughter Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman) on a remote island. Living next door is the gruff Lou Amell (Allison Janney), a survivalist whose only companion is her dog, Jax. One night, Vee is kidnapped by a man (Logan Marshall-Green) which forces Lou to help Hannah track down Vee and rescue her. Encountering some mercenaries along the way, Lou employs a set of combat skills that reveal elements of her past that she has not shared for years. As a basic setup, Lou does not have a story that is all that unlike countless action movies that came before it, but it does offer some twists to the formula throughout that set this film apart.
At the top of the distinctions that Lou brings to the table is Allison Janney. At 62, she is the most unlikely action movie lead in recent memory, performing some intense hand-to-hand combat sequences that are right up there with not only actresses half her age but even many of her male counterparts. Janney has long been a phenomenal dramatic and comedic actor but in Lou she channels all of her skills plus new dimensions we have never seen from her. Lou as a character is similar in ways to Jeff Bridges recent role in the FX series The Old Man which featured the acclaimed actor playing a cinematic creation in a realistic manner. Janney never goes to the level of John Wick or Atomic Blonde but rather plays a character whose skills are believable and realistic in a story that is grounded rather than being over the top.
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It also helps that Lou doesn’t try to create stakes that are ridiculous. Yes, the story does require some suspension of disbelief, but rather than involving crime syndicates or villains bent on worldwide domination, Lou focuses on a specific set of characters and circumstances that play directly into the 1980s time period. Janney works well alongside Jurnee Smollett who has turned in a series of solid turns in HBO’s Lovecraft Country and the recent Netflix film Spiderhead. Here, she never comes across as a hindrance to the plot but holds her own as a mother who would do anything to save her child. Logan Marshall-Green is equally good as the damaged antagonist whose past is integral to the plot of the story. The vast majority of this movie is these three characters which helps the story feel more immediate and more impactful.
Produced by J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, Lou is the first screenplay from Maggie Cohn (American Crime Story, The Staircase) and Jack Stanley who channel familiar action tropes into a script that never feels cliche or formulaic. At the outset, I kept expecting the movie to turn into every other revenge or chase movie I had seen before, but it continued to surprise me throughout. A lot of credit for that is owed to director Anna Foerster. While Foerster has directed several television series like Westworld and Jessica Jones, her sole film credit is on Underworld: Blood Wars. Foerster has worked on every film Roland Emmerich has made since Independence Day, so she has a good grasp of spectacle. Lou doesn’t ever go to the level of an Emmerich scale film but the cinematography here makes excellent use of the drab Pacific Northwest setting and limits the special effects work to only necessary moments.
Lou is a fast-paced action movie that manages to keep the pace moving and never slowing down. This is a movie that could have been a surprise hit in movie theaters during the pre-COVID era but now is a great flick for the millions with Netflix at their disposal. Allison Janney has now proven that there is absolutely nothing she cannot do when it comes to acting and has given one of her strongest performances in Lou. I would be shocked if this movie didn’t garner a lot of chatter about putting Janney in more roles like this and maybe even exploring more about this character in an ongoing franchise. As a standalone, Lou is a lot of fun and one of the better Netflix originals in a long time.
Originally published at www.joblo.com