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Jessica Chastain’s ‘Ava’ Again Shows Why Lady Killer Movies Need To Lighten Up

Jessica Chastain’s Ava joins the likes of Taraji P. Henson’s Proud Mary, Jennifer Garner’s Peppermint, Blake Lively’s Rhythm Section and Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow as relentlessly grim and self-critical female assassin movies, denying audiences the very escapist fantasy pleasures they presumably came to see.

Tate Taylor’s Ava was the big new film on the VOD market last weekend. The “Jessica Chastain plays an assassin” flick is the top movie over at iTunes and Google while it’s currently second on Vudu and fourth on FandangoNow (which ranks by total revenue, giving the $20-to-rent Antebellum and edge over standard $6-to-rent titles). Obviously, I can’t speak to actual earned revenue for Ava, but it’s probably more a case of being the big newbie of the weekend as opposed to a genuine audience favorite. It has a strong cast (including Geena Davis, Colin Farrell and John Malkovich) and a capable filmmaker (Tate previously helmed The Help and Get On Up). The problem is that, like too many female assassin flicks, it’s no fun.

Every professional killer movie need not be a barrel of laughs. But the lady killer flicks tend to be aggressively downbeat and self-critical action dramas. Zoe Saldana’s Columbiana, Jennifer Garner’s Peppermint and Blake Lively’s Rhythm Section see our otherwise regular heroines embark on a path of vengeance after losing their entire family units to violence. Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow and Sasha Luss’ Anna both involve young women reluctantly recruited to be KGB killers while they attempt to break out and earn their freedom. Taraji P. Henson’s Proud Mary is anything but, as the film details its professional killer wracked with guilt over a child orphaned by a prior

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