Lou is a solid, if inconsistent, action adventure

Lou, a Netflix Original action thriller, was clearly intended to be a vehicle for Allison Janney. As one of the most heralded contemporary actresses, she deserves a vehicle.

Unfortunately, Lou may not be the movie she had hoped for. While Lou is a perfectly serviceable thriller, the movie does rise much beyond its genre. 

All the Makings of a Solid Action Adventure

Set on San Juan Island in Washington State, Lou (Janney) is a “retired” CIA operative. She’s tough. Jaded. Traumatized. Distant. Many people just think she is aloof and antisocial. And she is.

Audiences, however, slowly realize Lou cares about a few things very deeply. Her tenant, Hannah (Jurnee Smollett) and her young daughter Vee (Ridley Bateman), have her attention. But far darker secrets keep Lou on a fine line between living and suicide.

Hannah is hiding from her violent and abusive husband, Philip (Logan Green Marshall). When a storm threatens the island, Philip seizes the advantage and kidnaps Vee. Hannah panics. She runs to Lou’s home only to find that power and phone line have been cut off. 

Lou’s instincts and training kick in, and the two set out in the torrential downpour to rescue Vee.

The Makings of an Excellent Action Adventure

Janney’s performance, along with the supporting cast, is excellent. We believe she has experienced trauma. We also see how the quest for rescuing Vee invigorates her. What unfolds over the course of the pursuit, however, is darker and more convoluted than Hannah (and the audience) suspects.

Lou has all the makings of a solid action adventure. 

Movie Stumbles Through Plot and Setting Lapses

Unfortunately, the movie’s plot and setting inconsistencies fail to bring the movie over a threshold of being a standard, if serviceable, action film. 

While Janney plays the brooding homeowner troubled by her history, and Smollett is convincing as the determined and panicked mother, the villains fail to have similar levels of complicated emotional histories. 

The movie’s pace is uneven and the plot is somewhat predictable. What seems like disjointed editing makes for an inconsistent story. For example, a major storm coming through the Northwest is the cover for Vee’s kidnapping. Somehow, Lou tracks them despite torrential downpours that would sweep away evidence and tracks. We have to assume that Lou has expertise we don’t know, but know real evidence (other than an unremarkable killing a deer in the woods in the opening scene) provides any evidence of these abilities.

At other times, without comment or explanation, the rain stops, giving everyone an opportunity to rest. These breaks in weather would be the time to continue the pursuit at a faster pace rather than pause to give the kidnapper more time to traipse through the woods.

Contextualized Action Scenes Give Lou Plausibility

Unlike other spy  and thriller movies, however, the action scenes in Lou are contextualized to the age and abilities of the key characters. Lou is older, and, as a woman, would not have the strength to go toe-to-toe, let alone fist-to-fist, with a well trained and physically fit man in his thirties or forties. Instead, Lou uses ruses to give her the advantage, and her experience to weaponize tools and give her the upper hand. 

Thus, the action scenes carry a plausible veneer that keeps the movie more grounded than an over the top action film like the Bourne Identity or Mission Impossible film series.

Lou Remains an Entertaining, Serviceable Action Thriller 

Unfortunately, the inconsistencies combined with a few plot holes prevent the Lou from picking up enough steam to really be the thriller as advertised. Rather, it’s more suspense and drama. 

Nevertheless, Lou is entertaining, the kind of serviceable action thriller that makes for a reasonable evening of inside movie streaming Netflix.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series (syppublishing.com) has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).