Lou is the kind of person who prefers a good amount of distance between her home and the nearest human being. Played by Allison Janney with a world-weary vibe, she’s experienced enough human carnage to stay far away, tucked away in the icy woods with her accumulated guilt.
This being the movies, the viewer only gets a short time with her in this bubble of seclusion before another character comes into her life named Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), asking for an assist in locating her kidnapped daughter (Ridley Asha Bateman). Reluctantly, Lou helps but only in that “keep up or get lost” sort of non-maternal way.
It’s not long before we meet the antagonistic culprit, aka the person responsible for making the movie happen, in Hannah’s ex, Philip (Logan Marshall Green). From here, it’s a race through the brutal terrain of wetness, trees, hills, slopes, and bodies of water that aren’t known for being kind. Mild bonding takes place between the primary duos-Lou and Hannah, who are chasing Philip and the kid-but the audience can only sit and wait for the next fight to commence.
“Lou,” which is also the title of the movie, doesn’t really design much else to develop here. Director Anna Foerster isn’t going to win any awards for this production, but she definitely knows what genre she is playing in, working with a fairly formulaic screenplay about redemption and past mistakes from Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley. Foerster is aided by inventive cinematography from DP Michael McDonaugh, who frames the fight sequences in imaginative ways that make you think something more was attainable here. A key fight in the climax takes place amidst the rushing waves of a morning ocean, and the camera takes inventive risks.
As it is, the action satisfies but the long lapses in between with fractured character development makes the pacing seem stagnant. Janney easily carries the film, taking the film to a higher place due to her pedigree and dedication to the role. She’s a natural with the action sequences, moving around like an older but just as nimble Charlize Theron, instead of looking like a performer who was just taught to fire before production.
Green has devilish eyes and brings a mysterious nature to Phillip, but doesn’t get a fully fleshed out role to play with, and Smollett fails to register with her portrayal of Hannah, the whiny yet necessary road trip partner for the more interesting lead character. Like a good portion of the film, most of the cast is disposable or interchangeable enough to avoid bad movie detection, but not enough to truly stand out.
I’m afraid “Lou” is another serviceable Netflix actioner that will do the trick for a late night watch, yet won’t be something on your mind the following morning. Even the very end tries to reach far and long for an open-endedness that hints at a sequel. My reaction to that is no thanks. One was enough.
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