Directed by Anna Foerster.
Starring Allison Janney, Jurnee Smollett, Logan Marshall-Green, Ridley Asha Bateman, Greyston Holt, Matt Craven, Toby Levins, Marci T. House, and Jaycie Dotin.
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.
Add Allison Janney to the growing list of older but capable action stars. A debut directorial effort from Anna Foerster, based on a story from Maggie Cohn, who wrote the script alongside Jack Stanley, Lou opens with the eponymous older woman penning a suicide note filled with regrets while leaving behind some cash for an unknown character. With a shotgun locked and loaded, pressed against her temple, the filmmakers rewind time to that morning, which follows Lou and the remote island town preparing for an impending catastrophic storm (one that will shut down all transportation coming in and out.
The day also reveals that Lou takes place during the Reagan administration (briefly mentioned on television screens to explain away a lack of modern technology once the proceedings shift into a thrilling cat and mouse game), but what sticks out most is Allison Janney’s cold and steely tough persona; she’s particularly skilled at tracking and hunting (partnering up with her dog Jax), even when conversing with a young woman and her daughter about upcoming rent.
That woman is Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), who is trying to keep her young daughter Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman) hidden from an abusive Special Forces demolition expert ex-boyfriend (a man that she doesn’t believe for a second is dead, despite what she is told), a complete psychopath played by Logan Marshall-Green.
For Lou’s alienating antisocial behavior and payment strictness, there’s also a visible sense of softness and pained remorse underneath that rocky exterior and a desire to open up about something important or say something kind, but without the courage or ability to find the words to do so. Nevertheless, once the evil man fueled by rage locates and kidnaps Vee, that protective instinct is triggered; moments before attempting suicide, Lou has been granted an admittedly cliché shot at redemption.
There is no denying that Lou is pulling from the action movie playbook while also inserting a preposterous reveal halfway through that threatens to strike down every bit of goodwill like relentless lightning. However, such familiarity turns out to be mostly irrelevant since the filmmakers are so competent and assured in execution, receiving a boost from committed performances and excellent photography from Michael McDonough embracing the harsh environmental elements (touched up by some impressive visual effects).
Instead, Lou functions like satisfying trash, partly because the film is interested in trying to say something about motherhood and stubborn lone wolf behavior with its revelations. It’s nothing profound, but that’s also not necessary, given the satisfying bombastic material.
Lou is wise enough to realize that this is Allison Janney’s show, utilizing her survivalist resources and hardened combat abilities to hang with generic henchmen in brutal brawls, cleverly making use of their surroundings. That’s not to say Jurnee Smollett doesn’t also get a chance to impress with physicality, as they both appear as if they have gone through hell and back during their trek across the jungle during endangering weather.
There’s a sequence involving a wooden bridge knocked sideways that they must hang off and shimmy across, showcasing some creative thought went into these set pieces, as does a stunningly shot hand-to-hand final battle set against a beach’s crashing waves. It’s easy to get swept up in such exhilarating action scenes, striking photography, and a conflicted yet fierce turn from Allison Janney, even if the story and revelations are silly.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]
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