Do you remember when Liam Neeson used his “very special set of skills” to rescue his kidnapped daughter in Taken and breathed fresh life into older action stars while doing it? It spawned a whole franchise, too. Well, we might have had to wait 14 years, but now there is a similar project where a woman takes the lead. Female action heroes are not as rare as they used to be, but ones past a certain age are still pretty much unheard of. Happily, audiences recently got The Woman King, and now Netflix adds Lou to the mix.
Allison Janney takes the title role as a woman who is not what she seems. People who know her are familiar with a curt, solitary person, but the reality would come as a surprise to them. Lou’s neighbor Hannah (Jurnee Smollett) is about to learn the truth when her daughter is kidnapped. Though the story has bits that are too pedestrian, Lou is a small scale treat with personal stakes and effective action.
“But you could’ve been more human.”
The questions about the lead character begin from the opening sequence. What are the papers she’s burning? Where did she get all that money? And why is she about to end her life? The viewer wants these answers even before the central plot kicks in.
Beyond that, when you see the precious relationship between Hannah and her little girl, you want the person who would jeopardize that to be stopped. It turns out to be quite satisfying to see Lou be the person to do that.
Lou’s closed-off and crotchety nature turn out to be hard won, but it’s also the thing that will help resolve this dangerous situation. Hannah’s violent ex-husband Philip (Logan Marshall-Green) is the one who took their daughter, and only someone like Lou has the abilities necessary to confront this guy.
The first time she unleashes her CIA training on a couple of goons helping Philip, it’s a visceral thrill. The moment is well choreographed. You get a sense of their physical strengths and of how long it may have been since Lou had to do anything like that. Plus, neither of them holds back at all. And that’s just the beginning.
“You’ll leave the world a better place than I did.”
The thing about Lou‘s script that I think works best is the way it manages to connect the title character emotionally to the plot points that progress the story. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a plot revelation about three-fourths of the way through that puts a new perspective on the entire story. It’s the kind of thing that could’ve leaned toward melodramatic. Instead, it adds a layer of emotional investment for the audience, which more movies like this could use. It deepens the character relationships and doesn’t feel predictable.
By contrast, Marshall-Green’s villain is something that does feel like the typical kind of character filling that role. His performance is not bad, but the character itself needed to feel more fresh. Especially when you consider how the other parts of the story work, and how successful the performances of Janney and Smollett are.
Another remarkable accomplishment of director Anna Foerster is her use of the camera. She moves it in such a way that generates visual interest from the start and revels in the scenery of the Pacific Northwest setting. This creates an atmosphere that’s low key but memorable. And that’s a good way to describe this film overall, because that’s what Lou is as well: low-key but memorable.
4 stars out of 5
Lou is now streaming on Netflix.