REVIEW — “Barely Lethal”
What happens when you take a decent cast, headlined by an Academy Award nominated actress, and throw them into a made-for-TV movie? Exactly what you’d expect to happen. Somehow Hailee Steinfeld, who was nominated for an Academy Award for “True Grit,” got duped into this second rate film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It tows the line between being a Lifetime Channel action/comedy, a Disney Channel special, and PG-13 teeny bopper flick for theaters, and a parody of teenage comedy flicks like “Mean Girls” (which the lead star watches amongst other ‘classics’).
In a nutshell, our lead character is caught in a “Dark Angel”-esque situation in which, as an orphan, she was picked up by a government agency, and trained with other girls to be kick-ass assassins. However, she could never turn off that damn heart of hers, and always wanted more. While in pursuit of big bad Jessica Alba (who was Dark Angel…) she finds a way to fake her death so that she can go off, and try to live a normal teenage life. She studies up on the culture by watching movies and reading chick magazines, and attempts to survive the brutal world of teenage angst. However, when her new life is threatened by her old, she must…risk the lives of all the people she has befriended in a selfish attempt to be normal.
Might as well start with the cast that all seemed like they were somehow contractually obligated to make this. However, I give credit, like I always do, to Samuel L. Jackson. He probably did this movie because it seemed like fun to him, and you can tell he enjoyed himself during production. Sammy L. is as you’d expect him to be, and I give him no fault for doing something like this. The rest of the cast though… Hailee Steinfeld was so out of her element in something so beneath her that it was painful to try to watch her settle into the mediocre role. You could tell she was itching and dying for more, but was inhibited by the script and director. Jessica Alba has been quite awful lately, and even turned in a terrible cameo in the “Entourage” movie, so no surprise that she was a huge let down here. Sophie Turner, known to many as Sansa Stark from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” did a good job with what she had, and looked like she probably enjoyed herself, but they all deserve so much more than this.
The writing/direction have got to be the worst things I’ve seen in a while. This was intended to be a theatrical release, but because of how things panned out it’s being brushed under the rug straight to the home markets. The characters are so weak and clichéd that they become a parody of themselves, instead of the genres they are unintentionally poking fun of. Along the entire story, in every act, you know exactly what’s going to happen next, and there isn’t an original thought to be found in this entire thing. I will say that I did enjoy watching little kids fight and play with explosives, but maybe that just means there’s something wrong with me?
I give them credit for SOME of the action sequences. There is an initial sequence that shows Sophie Turner and Hailee Steinfeld sparring, and it’s there that you realize the actors actually put effort into this, but it seems like no one else did. Some of the later action sequences aren’t terrible to watch, but they make no sense in context with the fact that these are supposed to be top tier assassins… awkward… Also, there are a few too many things that happen, destruction wise, that no one seems to care about. Oh, I destroyed your mom’s car? And we were attacked by assassins at our homecoming dance? Lets go party now!!!
This movie really wanted to have its cake, and eat it too. It almost becomes its own parody, and it’s completely unintentional. The weak writing and direction make it play like a Disney Channel or Lifetime Channel movie, but the random cursing and binge drinking make it inaccessible for smaller children. The innuendos, violence, and drinking and talk of drug use all becomes a little uncomfortable once you recall that these kids are all supposed to be 18 years or younger. I feel bad for anyone that gets duped into watching this as it has no clear established market. Teenage girls might enjoy it, but I truly doubt it. Clichéd characters and writing make this an instant pass. 1.5/5