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Film / Kate

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Kate is a 2021 Netflix action thriller film starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, and Woody Harrelson.

Kate, an assassin, is poisoned and has 24 hours left to live. Before she dies, she goes on a final mission to get revenge on her killers and also befriends the daughter of a past target.

The film was released on September 10th, 2021.

The film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Jun Kunimura played Boss Tanaka who got beheaded by O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill. He plays Kijima, and beheads Renji in a duel of swords. It's quite similar to Michael Imperioli going from getting shot in the foot in GoodFellas to himself shooting the bakery store clerk in the foot during The Sopranos.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: In a flashback, Varrick tells Kate that a gut shot hurts more, and is a good way to tell the target It's Personal. Three guesses where they shoot each other in the end.
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  • Always Accurate Attack: Kate brags that she hasn't missed a shot in twelve years. Any misses during the story are chalked to up to the fact that she's currently dying.
  • At Least I Admit It: Renji dismissively tells Kijima "You're no samurai", and at least he knows that they're both just thugs.
  • Badass Adorable: Ani has this reaction after hiding Kate's injuries behind a cute T-shirt and sunglasses.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted, Kate spends the film getting progressively more banged up, not to mention visibly sicker with radiation poisoning.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Varrick used Kate at Renji's request so Varrick could join the Yakuza. While Reiji is responsible for her poisoning, Varrick manipulates her into killing unrelated Yakuza and both consolidate their forces at the end to square up against Kate and Kijima.
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  • Big Bad Wannabe: Renji wants to pull a coup on Kijima. But he's such a Dirty Coward in every way. He contracts out to Varrick, sends his own men to their deaths without a second thought, and flees with his tail between his legs whenever Kate sets her sights on him. And he ends up effortlessly beheaded by Kijima in a duel of swords.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kate eventually succumbs to the poison, but she still manages to kill Varrick and save Ani.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: Kate forces a doctor to mix a few shots of stimulants so she can stay on her feet while dying from poison.
  • Brutal Brawl: The apartment fight against Jojima is a spectacularly brutal affair as the two proceed to use everything in the kitchen as weapons-knives, scissors, glasses, espresso brewers, etc.
  • Camp Gay: Renji's lover Jojima, with his flamboyant outfit, makeup, jewelry, and surprising deadliness.
  • Combat Breakdown: Kate starts the movie able to brawl with a half-dozens Mooks at once. By the end, she's only moving by virtue of spite and stimulants, and must settle for using firearms. Even then she's soon reduced to stumbling around spraying handgun rounds at people.
  • Cool Car: Kate hijacks a heavily customized car for a chase scene.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The climactic duel between Renji and Kijima is settled very quickly.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion
    • Kate has a gun at the head of a Yakuza boss and forces his mooks to drop their weapons. When she pulls the trigger though, the gun is either empty or misfires, so the mooks grab their weapons off the floor forcing Kate to fight the lot of them.
    • A Yakuza mook chases Kate into a bathhouse and tries to shoot her, only to realise his gun is empty. Kate shouts "Boo!" at him, causing the startled mook to slip on the wet floor and knock himself out. The men using the bathhouse (all elderly Yakuza judging from their tattoos) think this is hilarious.
    • Ani struggles to work out how to load Kate's pistol while Kate is in brutal hand-to-hand combat with Jojima. Ironically when Ani does work it out, she hits Kate instead; he easily disarms her and she ends up having to kill Jojima with a blunt object.
    • During a Darkened Building Shootout, Kate and a mook both run out of ammunition at the same time and rush to reload before the other does.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Kate steals a car to escape the Tokyo hit. Given she's been poisoned and is trying to drive an unfamiliar and very powerful car through Tokyo traffic, she crashes within a minute, rather than somehow evading police pursuit.
  • Duel to the Death: Kijima challenges Renji to one in the finale to establish control of their clan.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Zigzagged; the doctor tells Kate that she has maybe a day to live. After taking the final stimulant shot, Kate says it will give her another hour of life.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Varrick is horrified at Kate being poisoned with Polonium-204. Sure he was willing to kill her, but radiation poisoning is a horrifically cruel way to go.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The overarching conflict is a power struggle between Renji and Kijima for control of the clan. No matter who wins, they're a bloodthirsty gangster running organized crime. Kate herself is a contract killer who spends most of the film trying to get revenge and is humanized only by her attachment to Ani. Ani herself is a brat and put through enough trauma that she is capable of shooting Kate, but she and the hospital staff are likely the only characters in the movie with more than a remote claim to being good people.
  • Fan Disservice: Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her underwear is a hot sight. Her body ravaged by the effects of radiation poisoning much less so.
  • Fingore: During one of the brawls she gets into to find out who poisoned her, a mook grabs her by the hair. She takes his tanto from him and slices her hair off...and his fingers along with it.
  • Funny Foreigner: Kate plays up the "lost foreigner tourist" to two mooks in the opening sequence. Unfortunately for her, not only the mooks are genuinely helpful, the ruse doesn't work, since the place she asks for is literally in the direction from which she came to their post. She quickly improvises around it.
  • Graceful Loser: After Kate shoots Varrick in the stomach, he tells her "Great shot" before succumbing to the wound.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm:
    • In the marketplace brawl, Kate smashes a bottle over the face of one of the mooks. Interestingly, she doesn't use the bottle as a bludgeon, but instead, press it vertically forward, using the momentum instead.
    • A variation during her epic fight with Jojima when Kate smashes a couple of wine glasses on a countertop, holding the stems as push daggers.
    • The Soft Glass trope is averted when Ani hits Jojima on the back of a head with a bottle hard enough to kill him, but the bottle doesn't break.
  • Guns Akimbo: Kate dual wields handguns during the climactic assault.
  • The Hero Dies: It's hardly a spoiler that Kate dies at the end.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Thanks to flashback montage + stimulant shot.
  • Hollywood Silencer:
    • Played ludicrously straight the entire movie. Kate's use of an improvised suppressor made of a cheap flashlight casing is more egregious, as the suppressor somehow screws onto an unthreaded barrel and works perfectly.
    • Averted however in at least one outdoor scene, with Kate firing the suppressed gun in an alley and the resulting sound being quite loud.
  • Human Shield: Near the end Kate grabs an opponent who gets too close, holds him up as a shield while she fires on distant enemies, then kicks him away for his kill shot.
  • I Have Your Wife: A rare protagonist example. Kate meets Ani when she kidnaps the latter to draw out higher targets in the yakuza food chain.
  • Important Haircut: Kate roughly trims her hair in a bathroom symbolizing how she's taking more control of her remaining life.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: First, Kate brags about never missing a shot in past twelve years. And while it hardly sticks through most of the film, by the time of the finale she is a complete wreck due to her poisoning, one of her eyes doesn't work anymore and she goes Guns Akimbo, yet somehow she hits bunch of mooks from both guns, despite rapid fire.
  • Improvised Weapon: Kate's general fighting style is to use whatever she has at hands to help herself, including things like coffee portafilter. Notably, when she's facing off against Jojima, he's even more into improvised weapons. Up to the point where he consistently has upper hand, being the only character to give Kate not only trouble, but nearly killing her.
  • Laser Sight: Used in an office gunfight near the finale when the defenders have cut the lights.
  • The Last Dance: Kate knows she's poisoned and will die within 24 hours. With her remaining time she goes seeking vengeance against her executioners.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Kijima has his men stand down when he faces off against Renji, even tossing him a sword and letting him remove his coat.
  • Made of Iron: Kate goes through a lot of punishment over the course of the film, starting with getting lethal levels of radiation poisoning. They don't stop her from being a mostly one woman army against various Yakuza members.
  • Mama Bear: Kate to Ani. They might not get along at first, but once Kate realizes the situation that Ani is in, she resolves to protect her at all costs from that point on, and their bond grows stronger over the course of the movie.
  • Murder, Inc.: Not explicit, but Varrick's displayed resources and Kate's earpiece communications imply that they are part of a larger organization.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If Renji hadn't jumped the gun on Kate's poisoning, she would have made that shot on Kijima successfully.
  • Nothing Personal:
    • Kate spares the life of the man who slipped her the poison, as he was Just Following Orders and had been told he was Slipping a Mickey instead.
    • Kijima in regards to Kate killing his brother and attempting to kill him. He considers her merely the tool that carried out the attacks. It helps he wants to get her on his side so they can both get revenge against the real perpetrators of the wrongs inflicted on both of them.
  • Off with His Head!: Kijima decapitates Renji during the final showdown in retaliation for his betrayal.
  • One Bullet Left: Kate loads a single round into her pistol for the final confrontation. Not due to lack of ammo, but because she's too tired to do any more and she also knows she will only have one shot at this.
  • One Last Job: Kate is told that if she completes one last hit, she'll be free to retire. Then she gets poisoned and goes on an additional final job to take her killer down with her.
  • Parental Substitute: Kate's handler Varrick is a father figure to her, while Ani regards Kate as a Replacement Goldfish for the mother she's never met, who in her imagination is cool and badass.
  • Pet the Dog: While largely a brutal, vengeance-driven hitwoman, Kate has a few moments, such as sparing Stephen and his girlfriend and comforting Ani after she kills Jojima for her.
  • Professional Killer: Kate is one, albeit with very limited agency in choosing jobs.
  • Properly Paranoid: Being a hitwoman with rather... special upbringing, Kate instinctively checks the ID and memorises data on her one-night-stand. It becomes useful for her very quickly.
  • Quick Draw: One between Kate and her final opponent after negotiations end.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: After the initial hit Kate has a change of heart and makes plans to retire. Varrick reveals late in the film that if he couldn't talk her back in then he would have her killed.
  • Retirony: Kate is poisoned the night before she plans to retire. She gets to enjoy maybe five minutes of retirement at the end of the movie before dying of a combination of blood loss and radiation poisoning.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Kate launches one after she is lethally poisoned.
  • Running Gag: Kate's liking for a Japanese fizzy drink Boom Boom Lemon. Varrick hands her one in the prologue, she fails to buy one at a store and from a vending machine and finally gets one on a car ride with Kijima.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Unsurprisingly, to Nikita. On her very first assignment, young Kate is set up by Varrick, solely to test her ability to improvise and overcome the unforseen obstacles. When she angrily confronts him back in base about it, it's directly lifted from Nikita.
    • In the finale, Varrick is Suddenly Shouting ALL OF THEM! when asked which team he wants called in.
    • Once she changes from her hospital clothes, Kate looks like Ellen Ripley.
    • Kate's Back Story is similar to Kite including the fact that her mentor is implied to have murdered her parents.
  • The Starscream: Renji aspires to seize leadership of the clan from Kijima. Kate being hired for a hit on Kijima's brother, and then Kijima himself, is what sets the plot in motion.
  • Storming the Castle: On her last legs, Kate, now allied with Kijima, launches a final assault on Renji's headquarters to kill both Renji and Varrick and rescue Ani, the last syringe having bought her another hour.
  • Straight Gay: In contrast to his Camp Gay boyfriend Jojima, Renji has no visible gay traits at all.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Kate is poisoned early on when her wine is spiked.
  • Tyke-Bomb: Kate has been trained by Varrick from a very young age. He then plans to do the same to Ani.
  • Unorthodox Reload: In the finale, Kate thumbs a round out of a magazine and inserts it directly into the chamber twice. Once to reload faster, the second to prepare to fight Varrick
  • Villain Protagonist: Kate is an unrepentant murderer many times over. The action of the film kicks off when she learns she's dying and chooses to murder a bunch more people over it. She has to grow into deciding to protect Ani.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the fat Yakuza mook, the one that tipped Kate on Ani and her importance? Last time we saw him, Kate had him at a gunpoint after killing dozens of his comrades, but in the same time she made it clear she will spare whoever will give her clues.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: According to Kate in the initial hit, her rules dictate that a job is to be called off if a child is even present at the time. Flashbacks imply this is because Kate witnessed the murder of her own parents.
  • Yakuza: The film depicts an internal conflict in a yakuza clan, with Kate starting as an outside contractor.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Since Kate received lethal radiation poisoning and then spends the rest of her time fighting through endless mooks, she's quite literally barely standing. It's even discussed at a midpoint.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • Kate is poisoned for having assassinated an Oyabun's brother. Until it turns out that the Oyabun has no interest in revenge against the weapon that killed his brother, only the hand that wielded it.
    • Played for Drama in that Kate is working with Ani, who has no idea she was the sniper who killed her father in front of her. When Ani does find out, she doesn't take it well.
    • It's implied that Varrick was responsible for the death of Kate's parents.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Kate is slowly dying from the poison.