Another Bonfire of the Absurdities

Lou1

Lou, 2022, 107 mins, Netflix

Silly me, could tell from the start: I think the pre-credits Bad Robot logo animation was the giveaway, supreme purveyors of utter tosh as they are these days, that Bad Robot logo screams Proceed At Caution and yet I still didn’t press the exit/stop button, especially when this thing appears to be another Netflix Original (boo/hiss/shudder).  I don’t know, maybe I’m a sucker for films set in the 1980s, maybe the warm feeling of First Blood-derived nostalgia for action dramas set out in wild woods got the better of me, but as the plot contrivances and preposterous coincidences dropped with loud clunks I could feel my will to stick to the bitter end start to wane, but stick with it I did, right to the (indeed bitter) end. 

Lets keep these things positive for as long as I can: Allison Janney is great.

Er, that actually… yeah, that might be it. Janney plays Lou, fiftyish ex-CIA superwoman in hiding on Orcas island, just off the Pacific Northwest. Its a fairly ridiculous character really, a sort-of female Nobody, and that’s maybe as far as the script goes, but Janney has a sense of conviction and cold detachment that fits the character and lends a degree of plausibility.  She’s a taciturn, no-nonsense old dear with a talent for killing, you know, a sort of All-American Grannie with a talent for guns and knives. Lou’s only companion is a brilliantly obedient dog with a superpower that is somehow putting up with his mistress’ glorious bitchiness. Did Bad Robot think this would be a franchise?

The film starts on a dark and stormy night (no, seriously) with Lou grumpier than usual having emptied her bank account and written a suicide note, finally putting a shotgun to her mouth when, wouldn’t you know it, just in the nick of time as the thunder crashes and Lou is about to pull the trigger and end the movie early, a young woman, Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), who is renting a trailer home from Lou, suddenly bursts in screaming her child has been abducted. 

Hannah knows who has stolen her daughter- its her estranged husband Phillip (Logan Marshall-Green), an ex-special forces soldier (stifle yawns, please) who was abusive to Hannah and a danger to their daughter Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman) but who is supposed to be dead. Seems Phillip faked his own death to lull Hannah and the police into a false sense of security. We the viewers are fully aware of how bad this mad bastard is because he’s already killed Hannah’s new boyfriend, who picked him up thinking Phillip was just some lowly hitch-hiker caught out in the rain (some guys are so gullible and can’t tell a crazy bastard from soggy lowlife). What we don’t yet know, and that Hannah doesn’t know either, is that Lou isn’t just some random landlord renting out a mobile home to single-mother Hannah, she’s actually Hannah’s mother-in-law, an ex-CIA spy and badass middle-aged killing machine who’s been waiting for her psychopath son to make his move, and who now has to track mad Phillip through wild woods in a storm to save her grand-daughter. Oh yeah, this time its not just personal, its maternal, baby. The awkward script gradually unwraps the twists with crashing thuds that stretch credibility beyond breaking-point; as is usual these days in modern cinema, the scriptwriter doesn’t know when to stop and just runs on towards farce.

Of course at this point I’m struggling to keep up as I studiously tick off the absurdities. There’s immediately a great part when they load up Lou’s Arsenal of Death (every hero/heroine worth their salt has a secret stash of doom-mongering) and rush out to her station wagon, which dutifully fails to start as is the wont in tense pursuits like this. When Lou opens up the bonnet we see a bomb that looks like something out of the Adam West Batman tv series dutifully ticking down to zero so Lou has sufficient seconds to leap to safety before it explodes. If the bomb was triggered by Lou lifting the bonnet, wouldn’t it be better to have just gone off immediately, rather than give a convenient ten second countdown? Am I really meant to think about stuff like that? Of course not. Likewise I’m not supposed to question why Hannah doesn’t collapse into a fit of panicked hysterics at this point, what with it being the middle of a storm, her daughter kidnapped by her mad dead husband, trucks blowing up… seems Hannah is a bit of a no-nonsense badass herself when the chips are down. Its amazing how characters in films are so down to Earth, steady-thinking and believable in a crisis, especially the women.  

How I miss women like Lambert in Alien, the wonderful Veronica Cartwright losing her shit and endearing her to sympathetic viewers forever. Sure, we’d all like to be heroes like Liam Neeson etc but we know we’d really collapse into a hysterical panic like Lambert, bless her.

Philip isn’t alone, he’s recruited two of his special forces buddies to assist him, said assistance being, er, waiting in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods. Must confess the script lost me a bit with this part. Lou and Hannah are tracking Phillip and come upon the cabin where two beefy killing machines are waiting for Phillip but he isn’t there yet, if he ever intended to arrive and meet them there at all, and yet Lou is tracking Phillip which would…. Nah, don’t think about it, its just an excuse to give Lou an opportunity to beat the shit out of two huge blokes in a hand-fight to the death. Yeah sisters, this time grannies are doing it for themselves. 

What is this, Ghost? Ageism coupled with sexism? I should be ashamed.

Actually its not a bad bit of action choreography, Janney handles the physicality well, but when a six-foot-plus beefcake punches her in the face I expect her jaw to break or teeth to fall out and when he kicks her into a wall I expect her hip or back to protest but nah, she’s cool, its those two special ops guys we should be worried for, they are clearly outmatched, somehow. Its getting to be a bit of a trope, women beating the shit out of guys twice their size/half their age. 

What is this, Ghost? Yet MORE ageism coupled with sexism? This is beyond shame.

I could go on about Logan Marshall-Green; he in no way convinces as a mad, bad, lousy son/terrible husband/awful father… (yeah this guy ticks all the toxic-male boxes, the script does him no favours at all). This is a diabolically pantomime villain who seems to blame everything on mom, and thankfully moms here to sort the wee upstart out, even if she has had a pick-axe shoved in her chest (yeah… really, action movies have to tone down the comicbook silliness; they get more violent but that violence only results in a token sense of hurt;  Lou should be rasping blood out of her lips and gushing bubbles from her chest but hey, as John Brosnan assured us decades ago, its only a movie, stupid).  

Anyway, I’ve wasted far too much time already writing about this nonsense. Should have been better, but these jokers at Bad Robot just don’t know when to stop with the stupidity, and Netflix will buy anything in its craving for new content. So here we are. Lou 2 next year? Bring it on, I hear those pesky Russians need sorting out.

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