With the upcoming release of The 355, Jessica Chastain is looking to make a name for herself in action movies and more than that, she is looking to rock a male occupied genre and breath fresh life into it. Ava is not how that is done. Directed by Tate Taylor off a script by Matthew Newton, Ava is the story of a seasoned assassin (Chastain) who after a bungled mission returns home for the first time in years and faces her family risking her stability and her sobriety. Taylor, coming off the insanity of horror film Ma switches things up with an action film but his style doesn’t translate across with over edited fight sequences, confusing and overly stylised, nauseating camera movements and a fear of the adult themes Ava wants to deal with while clumsily attempting to fit itself into a 15 rating that feels beneath it. While Chastain gives good stoic and Newton’s script has built a self destructive woman worthy of a decent story, Ava clumsily jumps from genre to genre, unsure if it is revenge tale, a conspiracy thriller or a badly built family drama.
With a solid cast full of reliable character actors from Colin Farrell to John Malkovich, all the parts of Ava seem to be in place but a painfully empty performance by Jess Weixler hobbles Ava’s main plot effectively muffling the one humanising part of Taylor’s film. A woefully underused Geena Davis is an inspired piece of casting but her contributions come too infrequently and too late into Ava’s runtime to amount to anything. Ultimately there is a story hidden in here about a woman’s downward spiral after facing a past that still haunts her more than the people she has killed. There is something dark and fascinating about that story, one of a woman who has managed to reconcile one part of her, unable to control the other. It’s too bad that poor casting, some flimsy direction, a generic plot and a film too frightened to get its hands dirty get in the way of letting us know who Ava really is, warts and all.