The great Taken-ing of actors over 55 was a windfall for the likes of Neesons, Odenkirks, and Costners, but not so much for their female counterparts, who were shifted on from mum to mom who is also married to a retired hitman.
With the success of Michelle Yeoh and Viola Davis in the action genre that has traditionally left women unarmed before Jamie Lee Curtis returns to “end” Michael Myers next month, things seem to be slightly improving this year, and now Netflix is inevitably bringing up the rear with a more conventional vehicle, this time for Oscar winner Allison Janney.
If only it weren’t called Lou, a terrible ridiculous name that doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm when spoken. A picture that works more as a fascinating notion — Allison Janney as Taken — than as a real thing, it’s disappointingly difficult to watch while feeling even a smidgen of enthusiasm or, indeed, anything at all.
Janney’s character, Lou, is a gruff, self-sufficient hermit who lives in the woods and is haunted by something or someone. He keeps his life deliberately simple until one night, after a particularly spectacular storm, everything changes. Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), her next-door neighbor, desperately needs Lou’s assistance in locating her abducted kid.
Find out who Lou is. Who or what is Lou? But why exactly is Lou, anyway? As for me, after 107 minutes of this picture, which is occasionally entertaining but otherwise forgettable and a waste of Janney’s abilities and our time, I still have no idea what the hell is going on.
Lou gives us a tantalizing glimpse of what it might be about before pulling the curtain back, showing its hands, and shrugging.
It was originally planned to be shot at Paramount with J.J. Abrams producing; the film’s origin story isn’t bad, especially when compared to the garbage that Netflix pumps out, but the reason this script got so much attention is a mystery.
Despite being billed as “Thelma & Louise meets Taken,” Lou is more akin to “Sleeping with the Enemy meets Rambo meets Taken” and is, however, not quite as entertaining as that may sound. The kidnapper is the kid’s nasty ex-boyfriend, played by Logan Marshall-Green with a frothy menace that swiftly froths up to nothing, and the opening storm-set tracking scenes, which force the ladies to club together, are efficiently compelling.
Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley’s script works best when it sticks to the basics and director Anna Foerster, whose TV credentials include genre material like Outlander and Westworld, knows how to stage action and build a mood basic skill still counts for a lot in the streaming netherworld.
Janney is excellent as always, and the weary cynicism she brings to her roles—often for comedic effect—makes her a believable haunted antihero in Lou, which gives her space for more reflective, dramatic moments than she usually gets to explore.
What could have been a tight little chase movie is instead made much baggier and tougher to get involved in by a bland, derailing twist?
A foolish attempt to replace adrenaline with emotion pushes the film farther into limp melodrama and further from the action.
No matter what, Janney sells it, but by the end, she’s a walking wound. The fact that Lou even exists could be seen as progress for women beyond the age of 50 in action films, yet she is largely wasted in the genre.