Sweet Girl Movie Review: Jason Momoa leads this rather tiring thriller
Despite good intentions and a strong emotional core, Sweet Girl ends up being a rather sedate watch
It’s fascinating to watch actors, who play superheroes, get stripped off invincibility and play characters dealing with ‘real’ conflicts. Perhaps this is why when Jason Momoa (in his first non-Aquaman role in a feature film since 2018’s Braven) breaks down after learning about the death of a dear one during the opening moments of Sweet Girl, he feels way more vulnerable and powerless. Momoa, with his tousled long hair, also gets enough space to vaunt his now-famous musculature in numerous bloody set pieces; I liked that these combats aren’t painted as acts of courage. On the flip side, every time Momoa’s character indulges in violence, neither do these action sequences bolster the progression of the story nor do they make for gratifying viewing, which serves to leave us frigid. This is perhaps where Sweet Girl really falters.
Streaming on Netflix
Starring: Jason Momoa, Isabela Merced, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona
Directed by: Brian Andrew Mendoza
Backed by a strong emotional core, this film begins on a high note. We see Momoa’s Ray Cooper and his 18-year-old daughter, Rachel (an effective Isabela Merced), crumble as Ray’s wife, Amanda (Adria Arjona), fights an uphill battle with cancer. The family finds hope when they learn about the arrival of a new medication, but their optimism doesn’t last long as Simon Keeley (Justin Bartha), the CEO of a pharmaceutical empire, curbs the release of the drug that could have possibly saved Amanda. In a stirring moment that plays out like an echo of Taken’s iconic phone call scene, a helpless and deprived Ray confronts Simon over the phone on live television. “If my wife dies, it’s your death sentence. I will hunt you down and kill you with my bare hands,” says Ray. This film plays exactly how we expect it to, for the most part.
After deciding to unravel the corruption that culminated in his personal loss, Ray goes on a killing spree, accompanied by his daughter, and this is when the film runs out of steam. The arrival of a hitman (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) tailing the father-daughter duo fails to spice up proceedings. The action doesn't have enough spectacle to keep you captivated; the mystery, too feeble to sustain the tension through its entire runtime, and on the back of these deficiencies, the film falls flat both as an actioner and a thriller. Moreover, the lack of novelty is tiring.
Sweet Girl attempts to spur an emotional response, attempts to enthrall us, but despite having a multitude of effective elements at its disposal—a grieving family, an unlikely coming-of-age story, a conflicting father-daughter relationship, a mystery to unravel—it’s all in vain.
Credit where it’s due though. The first 30 minutes pack in a lot, and by the end of it, you really begin to wonder what more the film has in store. Unfortunately, it turns out that there isn’t much at all, with the film prancing from one mirthless action sequence to another. The deliberately shaky hand-held camera by Barry Ackroyd works in favour of the action scenes, often reflecting the haste of the main characters. Steven Price’s score pumps energy even during the most draining parts.
A twist in the third act, which reminded me of Alexandre Aja’s High Tension, comes across as quite a surprise and uncovers a sensitive side to a story that's otherwise all brawn, but it comes too late to save this confused film. Despite the laudable objective to bring the father-daughter bond to the fore, the ending gives the impression of being an obviously manufactured effort. Sweet Girl is a well-intentioned film with a few interesting ideas, but ultimately fails to convert them into a compelling watch.