Action film are a dime a dozen in the modern film landscape. If you can’t find a mainstream action film to keep your interest, there is more than likely another one hundred direct to DVD action films that can fulfill the same purpose with a lower budget. However, with those direct to DVD films, they usually fall into the trap of having a boring premise, not so good action and terrible pacing. Sadly, “Ava” falls directly into many of these tropes.
In the film, Jessica Chastain plays Ava Faulkner, a former addict and Army soldier who know serves as an assassin for a shady organization. Ava has begun feeling conflicted about the details of her job wondering if the people she murders actually deserve to die. After an incident that has left Ava shaken up, her mentor and supervisor Duke, played by John Malkovich, suggests she take a break and go home. Taking his advice, she returns to her home of Boston reuniting with her family eight years after leaving home.
However, it is soon revealed that the head of the organization Simon, played by Colin Farrell, is trying to have Ava killed due to speaking with her targets. This puts Ava in danger as she must also deal with her family and the painful reason why she left.
“Ava” is a film that through its highs and lows can be easily described as bland. Jessica Chastain does a fairly decent job at being an action lead. She played the role very believably and there wasn’t any point where I really doubted she could do the things she did in the film. However, Ava as a character doesn’t have any appeal to her. She is a deadly and attractive female assassin with a dark and mysterious past. Stop me if you’ve ever heard that one before.
This isn’t helped either by the fact that Chastain plays the character with only a slight range of emotion. These emotions range from slightly sad to sarcastically amused to nothing. In some scenes where it seems like she should have a bigger reaction, Chastain just kind of blankly stares with no real emotion on her face. Even when her reaction is supposed to be sad, she just kind of has put on tears roll down her face.
The action in “Ava” really ranges from decent to okay. Like many modern action films, every bit of an action scene is filled with hundreds of individual shots of a fight going on. It made it hard to tell if the action on screen was actually being performed by the actors or by stunt people. It is perfectly fine to have stunt people do the action in a film. But, when the film cuts every bit of action like a slideshow, it is hard to feel invested in scenes that change the shot with every movement.
Another aspect of the film that didn’t for me was the organization of the film especially in the opening. The film starts off with Ava driving around her target Peter, played by Ioan Gruffudd, before killing him. This scene is really slow building up to when she eventually kills him. From there, the films shows Ava going back to Boston reuniting with her sister Judy, played by Jess Weixler, and her mother Bobbi, played by Geena Davis. However, in the middle of Ava being in Boston, the film decides to shift back to what seems to be an older mission.
In this mission, Ava is tasked with killing a German general in Saudi Arabia and make it look like an accident. However, as she injects him and talks with him a bit, something goes wrong causing Ava to have to fight her way out of the building. The placement of the scene was weird. From watching the film, I think it is supposed to be assumed that this happened before she went to Boston but was shown after she was there in what could’ve been a flashback. But, the scene would’ve been more effective if it was the opening scene instead.
The scene in Saudi Arabia does way more for establishing the plot and character of Ava better than the scene with Ioan Gruffudd. It shows how Ava has doubts about what she is doing, implies that the information given to her was wrong intentionally and displays Ava’s fighting skills. Gruffudd’s scene overall adds nothing seems to be a waste of the actor when he is killed off in the eight minute opening.
Another failed aspect of the film is from the drama that the film tries to include with its subplots. Whenever Ava comes home, she discovers that Judy is now in a relationship with her former boyfriend Michael, played by Common. This causes drama between the three of them. Ava also gets involved with them whenever she finds that Michael owes a debt to an underground gambling den owner Toni, played by Joan Chen. However, this subplot doesn’t really bring anything to the film besides allow Common and Chastain to have scenes together to drum up fake chemistry between the two.
All of this isn’t to say that “Ava” is a terrible film. The film had the potential to be at least bit more interesting but it ended up being a generic film that is ultimately forgettable.