Jason Momoa IS Aquaman, but Jason Momoa IS NOT the Sweet Girl, his latest Netflix vehicle. This modern-day non-franchise non-superhero (and non-Conan!) action flick is probably Momoa’s highest-profile original-concept movie yet, he said, not daring to add another hyphenate to this sentence. The title character is actually played by Isabela Merced, who we remember as the young charmer who played the live action Dora the Explorer in Dora and the Lost City of Gold. She plays Momoa’s daughter, who may just be a chip off the old butt-kicking block.
‘SWEET GIRL’: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Ray Cooper (Momoa) stands on the roof of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ stadium. A helicopter spotlights him. FBI agents chase him. One agent tries to coax him down. He stands on the edge and leaps into the water. Subtitle: YEARS EARLIER. In voiceover, Ray goes on about how the past is like a dream and our kids are like totally pieces of us, man. We see Ray and his wife and kid camping alongside a rushing river. Perfect family. One day, he gets a phone call. Amanda’s (Adria Arjona) cancer is back. Their daughter Rachel (Merced) is a teenager. They crowd into Amanda’s hospital room. She’s lost her hair and Rachel draws eyebrows on her with makeup and Amanda gives her a stuffed bunny.
The doc powwows with Ray and says a new drug is about to hit the market that’ll help Amanda significantly. Cut to some time later — how much later I don’t know, is it important, probably not, but all the many other title cards in the movie seem to think the passage of time is important — and the doc says the pharmaceutical corp is pulling the drug from the market for vague economic and/or political reasons. Ray fumes. He’s a mixed-martial-arts fighter and he’s teaching Rachel how to work the heavy bag — but the heavy bag is working them now, so to speak. Amanda is barely conscious as Ray and Rachel watch the pharma CEO (Justin Bartha) talk circles on the news. Ray calls in. Without the drug, he tells Mr. CEO, my wife will die. Platitudes. Justification. Logic that isn’t logic. Ray threatens to kill him if she dies. On live TV. Not too much later: We see Ray not getting a visit from the cops. Instead, he’s in the hospital hallway, wailing, raw with grief. The inevitable has happened.
SIX MONTHS LATER. Ray. Heavy bag. Extra hard. Bills, PAST DUE. Ray and Rachel are surviving, barely. He gets a call from a journalist who’s working on a story about pharma CEO guy and bribe this and offshore-account that. It goes deep. Too deep. He wants to meet with Ray, so off he goes, not realizing Rachel is tailing him. He meets the writer on a subway car and before they can even start a conversation, some creep is stabbing them — to death, he no doubt hopes. A fight ensues, the kind of movie fight where a normal human with a normal skull gets his normal skull slammed into a normal metal pole and remains abnormally not unconscious. Rachel gets tossed around and the bad guy stabs Ray in the torso and throws him through a window and everything goes black.
24 MONTHS LATER. Rachel. Heavy bag. She’s in the ring with a sparring partner and she gets him, really gets him, and he tries to tap out but she doesn’t let up on the choke until she snaps out of it, thankfully before snapping his windpipe. She and Ray live in a battered dump, the kind of movie dump where the constant din of sirens bleeds through the paper-thin walls. Ray has a big wall, the type of movie wall where conspiracies are laid out with lots of photos and news clippings and push pins. He’s lost ’em. His marbles. The type of movie marbles where losing them prompts a man to do some brutal, desperate shit. It’s pretty violent. He tosses Rachel in the car hoping to get to Canada. The feds are on ’em. They seem to drive for a long time but it’s actually only like 70 miles, and then they get a motel room. Guess only an hour passed this time. Remember the guy with the knife on the subway? He’s still out there, and so are some other goons, illegal-type goons, who are now on Ray’s ass, but he’s thankful for that fire ax on the wall, and for all those MMA knees and fistpunches he knows how to deliver.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Sweet Girl is like something Stallone might’ve propped up in 1989 if he wasn’t doing, I dunno, Lock Up? It’s also like something Mark Wahlberg might’ve propped up in 2012 if he wasn’t doing, I dunno, Contraband?
Performance Worth Watching: I abstain.
Memorable Dialogue: Ray gets deep and philosophical during his opening voiceover: “Parents and their children — where do we stop and they begin?”
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Movies don’t get much more B-movie than this movie, unless the movie is Sesame Street Presents the Letter B: The Movie. That’s not a terrible thing in and of itself, but Sweet Girl is a real dumhinger that channels your, my, our, EVERYBODY’S rage against greedy-capitalist lower-than-low exploitative opportunistic big-pharma sons-of-worms into a barely written action-revenge flick with nothing to say and a plot that’s hacked up for barbecue. Honestly, I don’t have any better suggestions for an anti-pharm movie than one that indulges a fantasy about hand-slaughtering a corrupt shitbird of a CEO, but it lacks the style and technical precision to compete with the Extractions and Atomic Blondes of the world, not to mention all the elite John Wicks and Mission: Impossibles we should be rewatching in lieu of this waste of Momoa’s burly charisma.
The film doesn’t even follow through on the semi-inspired concept of a father-daughter punchy-kicky wrecking crew; it’s more like Lone Wolf and Cub if it was the poof-of-air emoji that we all interpret as being a flatulence cloud. That particular non-development can be explained away by the howler of a nonsensical twist that would torpedo the movie if it hadn’t already been torpedoed by its bland half-competent direction, cruddy action sequences and draggy pace. The remainder of the film after that point is one of the least convincing stretches of film you’ll see all year. After Sweet Girl, you’ll be calling the doc to write you up a scrip for the headache.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Leave this one “B.”
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