TThe great takeover of over-55s, from playing dad to playing dad who is also a retired hit man, has been a boon for the Neesons and Odenkirks and Costners, but less so for their female counterparts, who were shaken from mother to mother who also married to a retired hit man. Things seem to be slightly improve this year with more women of the same age accepted into the action genre that has traditionally left them unarmed, with Michelle Yeoh and Viola Davis working their way to box office success (before Jamie Lee Curtis returns next month to take on Michael Myers to “end”), and now, inevitably, Netflix is bringing the back up with a more conventional vehicle, this time for Oscar winner Allison Janney.
As long as it wasn’t called Lou, a terribly stupid title that’s hard to say aloud with a vague sense of excitement (try it – Lou, Lou, Lou). It’s also hard, unfortunately, to watch it while feeling a vague sense of excitement or anything, really, a movie that works best as an exciting concept – Allison Janney does Taken – then a real thing.Read:Kanye West Told North to ‘Never Let Anyone’ Take Over Family Business
Janney plays, you have this, Lou, a gruff, self-sufficient loner who lives or exists in the woods, haunted by something or someone, a deliberately simple life until one night things get complicated during a particularly dramatic storm. Her next door neighbor’s daughter, Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), is, we got this, takenand she needs Lou’s help to find her.
Who is Lou? What is Lou? But most importantly, Why is Lou? I have no idea after a varied but mostly unremarkable 107 minutes, a film unworthy of both Janney’s talents and our attention. Lou briefly teases that it’s really about something before pulling the veil from our eyes, raising his hands, and shrugging. The film was originally set up in Paramount with JJ Abrams producing, an unimpressive original story considering most of the crap churned out on Netflix, but why this script got so much attention is perhaps the film’s biggest mystery.
Initially described as Thelma & Louise meets Taken, Lou is a bit more like Sleeping with the Enemy meets Rambo meets Taken, but sadly not nearly as fun as it might sound like. The missing child is caught by an abusive ex, played with soapy menace that quickly fizzles out by Logan Marshall-Green, and the first stormy follow-up scenes, forcing the women to club together, are efficiently engaging. Director Anna Foerster, whose TV credits span genres like Outlander and Westworld, knows how to organize action and create mood (grassroots competence still counts a lot in the streaming underworld), and when Maggie Cohn’s and Jack Stanley’s script keep things simple, there is just as easy fun to be had. Janney is, as always, a real pro, and her weary cynicism, mostly used for comedic effects, makes her a believably haunted anti-hero, and Lou allows for some quieter, heavier moments that her other work can’t always afford.Read:How Was Jeffrey Dahmer Caught? Arrest, How He Was Discovered, Captured
But there’s a dull, derailed twist that complicates and confuses it, turning what could have been a tight little car chase movie into something much wider and much harder to get involved in. It turns the film into slack melodrama and takes us further away from the action, a misguided attempt to swap adrenaline for emotion. Janney sells it anyway, but towards the end she is literally and figuratively wounded. Lou’s sheer existence may be a step in the right direction for women over 50 in action movies, but it’s a misstep everywhere.