‘Kate’ review: Netflix’s riotous revenge thriller in neon-lit Tokyo

Mary Elizabeth Winstead puts on a bloody show as the titular assassin with 24 hours to live

Presumably, this film’s rather nondescript title is meant to heighten the mystery surrounding its heroine. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate, a shadowy assassin who tears through Tokyo on a revenge mission after learning her days are numbered. By the end, though, you’ll wish Winstead had been given a bit more backstory to work with. Kate’s blood-spattered plight does eventually become compelling, but it takes a while to care what she’s up to.

The film begins with Kate killing her mark, a key member of a Japanese gangster clan, but only after a major moral quandary. Because the target’s teenage daughter was present when she killed him, Kate had to violate her one rule as an assassin – no kids within eyeshot of the murder. Kate is so consumed by guilt that she tells boss Varrick (Woody Harrelson), a surrogate father figure who trained her to kill from a young age, that she’s thinking of leaving their racket. He seems bemused that Kate would want to swap her life of gun-toting excitement for a white picket fence in the suburbs, but doesn’t attempt to dissuade her. Besides, Kate reassures him that she’ll only quit once she completes her final job.

However, Kate’s dreams of a quieter future are thwarted when she finds out she was poisoned during a one-night stand contrived by the gangster clan. With a radioactive chemical element coursing through her body and just 24 hours to live, she decides to prioritise closure. Defying Varrick’s advice, she sets about tracking down clan leader Kijima (Jun Kunimura) so she can find out why he poisoned her, a mere hired hand, as recompense for his brother’s death. Her bargaining tool is his teenage niece Ani (Miku Martineau) – the same innocent girl who watched her father being shot dead – whom Kate kidnaps at a rock concert featuring a cameo from Japanese metal queens Band-Maid.


As Kate keeps calm and carries on killing, it’s not hard to detect the influence of similar but superior revenge thrillers John Wick and Atomic Blonde. After all, their director David Leitch is credited as a producer here. Still, this film’s director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) does manage to inject Kate with a modicum of its own style, helped by Tokyo’s neon backdrop and Winstead’s committed performance. On fierce form as a woman whose mental toughness trumps her crumbling body, she really sells Kate‘s succession of bloody and brutal fight scenes. A final act plot twist is less persuasive, but by this point the film has packed enough of a punch – just – to keep you gripped till the finish.


  • Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
  • Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Woody Harrelson, Miku Martineau
  • Release date: September 10

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