Netflix released the trailer for the doomed hitwoman movie Kate this week. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays the title character, an assassin in Tokyo who gets poisoned before she can pull off a hit and decides to spend the time she has left hunting down her killer. Woody Harrelson plays her handler because every assassin has to have one, and Mikku Martineau plays the teenager who befriends her. Tadanobu Asana and Jun Kunimura, who are big deals in Japan, play gangsters.
"After she's poisoned, a ruthless criminal operative has less than 24 hours to exact revenge on her enemies and in the process forms an unexpected bond with the daughter of one of her past victims.
There's no time for mercy."
Kate is another sign that this seems to be the time for Violent Action Woman Movies. It's also another of those fantasy assassin movies screenwriters love to write. They often have very little relation to reality. American movies keep assuming the Yakuza carry guns when in real life, the Yakuza avoid using them because gun possession carries stiff prison sentences in Japan. Yes, this is a fantasy in the Fantasy Assassin genre that's been revitalized by the success of John Wick. The script is by Umair Aleem, and the director is Cedric Nicholas-Troyan.
What the press doesn't tell you is that Kate is an unofficial remake of the 1949 movie D.O.A., one of the post-War movies that defined Film Noir. Edmond O'Brien played an accountant who discovers he's been poisoned and spends his final days investigating why anyone would want to kill him. Rudolph Maté directed what was considered a B movie at the time since it was shot quickly and cheaply with no A-list stars. Maté was a cinematographer and used high contrast lighting and shadows as a cost-saving measure, and the imagery ended up becoming part of the iconography of Noir. The movie also encompassed many of the existential themes and anxieties of post-War America that defined the Noir genre as well. D.O.A. was remade in 1988 starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan and directed by Max Headroom co-creators Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton. D.O.A. is actually in the public domain now, so anyone can remake it without paying for the rights. Kate is obviously the latest.
Kate begins streaming on Netflix on September 10th.