Lou Assessment: Allison Janney Deserves a Higher Taken Rip-Off

It is enjoyable to observe a grizzled Janney seize an enormous gun and go full “Commando,” however this shoddy and ridiculous Netflix thriller lets her down.

So many expert and watchable actors have been plugged into poorly made “Taken” rip-offs over the past dozen years or so — together with Jennifer Garner, Pierce Brosnan, Zoe Saldaña, Liam Neeson, Liam Neeson, and Liam Neeson — and but I nonetheless couldn’t assist however get excited by the thought of casting Allison Janney as a grizzled “outdated girl” who grabs the closest shotgun when some military-grade baddies kidnap the little woman who’s dwelling on her property. C.J. Cregg doing Clint Eastwood? If that’s not sufficient to pump recent life into motion cinema’s hackiest sub-genre then I don’t know what’s.

Neither, apparently, does anybody concerned in Netflix’s “Lou,” a thriller so bland and threadbare it’s exhausting to think about this one-time Paramount manufacturing would ever wind up anyplace else.

The premise couldn’t be any easier, even when the wisps of a plot that screenwriters Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley layer on prime of it are impressively absurd: Janney performs Lou, a suicidal crank who lives on a forest-y island off the coast of Seattle together with her canine, Jax (presumably named after the previous “Vanderpump Guidelines” character of the identical identify, though “Lou” is about through the Reagan administration for causes which are by no means made clear). For the previous few months, Lou has been renting the trailer behind her home to a widowed mother named Hannah (Jurnee Smollett) and her daughter Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman), each of whom she’s joyful to antagonize at each alternative — Lou’s weirdly aggressive about gathering lease for somebody who’s planning to blow her personal brains out with a shotgun as quickly as night time falls.

In a surprising twist of occasions, nonetheless, Lou is stopped from killing herself 10 minutes into the film that bears her identify. Hannah bursts into the home at simply the suitable second with an pressing request for assist. Excellent news: Her husband Philip (Logan Marshall-Inexperienced) may be very a lot alive! Dangerous information: He’s kidnapped Vee through the worst rainstorm in many years. Oh, he’s additionally a former Inexperienced Beret, and he’s introduced two pals alongside for the enjoyable. Sadly for them, Lou has some related expertise of her personal — a really particular set of abilities that she honed as a spy for the CIA.

So begins a humid and tedious recreation of cat-and-mouse that “Underworld: Blood Wars” director Anna Foerster struggles to save lots of from its personal nonsense. A few of that nonsense is amusingly ridiculous, at the very least as far as Philip’s sociopathy is anxious; between his fixation with the band Toto, his penchant for crushing butterflies in his naked arms, and the lovable little bomb he makes out of Vee’s outdated music field within the first act, you may nearly really feel a film with some precise (deranged) character being suffocated to loss of life underneath the bargain-bin thriller on display screen. And the creepy postcards he leaves behind… don’t even get me began on creepy postcards.

However even regardless of a wild — and wildly unbelievable — second act twist that reframes the connection between this COVID-friendly story’s three main characters, “Lou” nonetheless simply appears like somebody typed “Allison Janney in ‘Taken’” into Dall·E 2 after which used the photographs the algorithm spat out for storyboards. Enjoyable as it’s to observe a stone-faced Janney grumble about how “the world’s not a playground” and beat some unhealthy guys to loss of life with a espresso pot, Foerster’s film is frustratingly mild on each.

Janney makes an awesome murderous curmudgeon, however the script’s large reveal strands the actress with a “layered” character who’s by no means given the prospect to transcend essentially the most primary features of her archetype. Worse: She solely will get to kill like three folks! The character she performed in “Mother” in all probability racked up the next physique rely! (I haven’t seen that present, however absolutely there was some murder sprinkled throughout these 170 episodes). Nearly all of “Lou” is wasted on its reluctant heroine nagging Hannah to maneuver sooner as they run by means of the rain or climb up muddy embankments whereas Philip waits for them in a cave someplace.

A film about Allison Janney going full “Commando” on a bunch of hapless redshirts sounds completely implausible — at its finest, “Lou” merely proves that it could be.

Grade: D+

“Lou” begins streaming on Netflix Friday, September 23.

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