Review: ‘Lou’ (2022)

The “aging badass comes out of retirement to help those in need” subgenre of action cinema is a well-worn tradition, but one that’s always welcome in my eyes. Whether it be something like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, or even last year’s No Time to Die, this is a subgenre with a lot of heft to it when wielded properly.

Now if you take those tropes and pair them up with 87Eleven – Chad Stahelski (John Wick series) and David Leitch’s (Deadpool 2, Bullet Train) action company – then you’re really cooking with gas! It’s a formula that continues to work well for the aforementioned Wick flicks. It also worked like a charm in last year’s Nobody, which saw Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk kick the ever-living hell out of a Russian crime syndicate. If it worked for Bob, then why not for The West Wing‘s Allison Janney!

And boy does it ever in Netflix’s Lou.

The basic set-up here is that a single mom Hannah (Birds of Prey‘s Jurnee Smollett) and her daughter Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman) are scraping by in the Pacific Northwest. They have a cranky old landlord named Lou (the aforementioned Janney) and, unbeknownst to Vee, they are hiding from Hannah’s abusive husband, an ex-soldier named Philip (Upgrade‘s Logan Marshall-Green). Unfortunately for them, Philip has figured out where they are and has brought some of his special forces pals along for some back-up.

Philip snatches Vee and sets in motion a deadly game that Hannah will only survive with the help of Lou. Why is Lou so special? Well, she’s ex-CIA and was damn good at her old job. It seems ol’ Phil picked the worst time possible to try and get his daughter back. What follows is a thrilling tale filled with expert outdoor tracking, brutal hand-to-hand combat, and copious amounts of rain.

Lou isn’t out to rewrite the rulebook for this kind of film. Aside from a few additional revelations along the way, there aren’t a lot of surprises here. This is Unforgiven by way of First Blood and Extraction, but what makes it truly compelling is the fact. We already know Janney can nail any sort of dramatic scene thrown her way, so when you have her putting the work in on the action front as well, you find yourself witnessing a powerhouse performance that washes away a lot of the samey elements at play within the narrative.

Smollett is no slouch either, of course. She’s as great as ever here, going toe-to-toe with both Janney and a delightfully unhinged Logan Marshall-Green every step of the way. Throw in a knockdown, drag out fight with B-movie superstar Daniel Bernhardt (Perfect Target, Atomic Blonde) and you have a tasty recipe for a hard-hitting piece of action cinema, all of which is expertly shot by director Anna Foerster (Underworld: Blood Wars).

It might not be perfect, but it sure as hell sells you what’s on the tin.

Lou is an original action thriller. It was directed by Anna Foerster, from a screenplay by Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley. The film was produced by J.J. Abrams, Jon Cohen, and Hannah Minghella. It stars Allison Janney, Jurnee Smollett, Logan Marshall-Green, Ridley Asha Bateman, Matt Craven, Daniel Bernhardt, Greyston Holt, and RJ Fetherstonhaugh.

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