Home Movies

Review: ‘Lou’ is saved by solid performances and a great score

Allison Janney and Jurnee Smollett combine to give solid performances in this mediocre action flick from Netflix.

via Netflix

Sometimes a movie gets elevated by the most unexpected elements, raising it above mediocrity and convention because one person dared to think differently. Action thriller Lou, which hits Netflix on Sept 23, carries just such an ace up its sleeve.

Recommended Videos

At first glance, this co-production from Netflix and Bad Robot only seems to have two committed performances from Jurnee Smollett (Lovecraft Country) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) propping it up. In the title role, Janney is hard as nails, somber as the grave, and attached to nobody save her mangy dog Jacks. In the other corner sits Smollett’s Hannah, who carries the scars of domestic abuse, and harbors bitter bereavement for her deceased husband Phillip (Logan Marshall-Green).   

Produced by Hannah Minghella and J.J. Abrams amongst others, Lou leans into storm force winds and driving rain for atmospherics. This rail-thin veteran hides some long-lost secrets that have forced her into isolation, robbed her of happiness, and embittered this older woman to the wider world. With an opening involving a suspended tarpaulin, incinerated government documents and suicidal intentions, Lou might not be for everyone.

Thankfully, after a short preamble to establish Hannah and her daughter as amiable members of this small community, the film gains momentum quickly when night falls. Consumed by another storm of mammoth proportions, lights go out, danger comes calling, and Lou turns tracker in pursuit of Hannah’s missing daughter.

via Netflix

From that point on, this Netflix movie hits the gas and rarely lets up. Giving Smollett and Janney time to bond through treacherous terrain, while Marshall-Green remains one step ahead. There is no denying that this Oscar winner and Emmy nominee throw themselves into their roles, as Lou lays waste to hired hitmen and Hannah toughens up, banishing her domestic demons in the process.

Knee deep in quagmires, trekking across marshes, and scaling mountainous crags are all part of the deal. Staying in step with Hannah’s ex-Green Beret husband, they both make progress emotionally and physically over the course of the story. War stories are traded, trail wounds are tended, and both women experience epiphanies before Lou draws to a close.

However, one element which consistently injects an adrenaline shot through the breastplate of this film comes from Nima Fakhrara. The composer decided to take a path less traveled when it came to scoring the film, giving Lou an essentially unique soundscape. His contribution here can never be underestimated, as it manages to ramp up atmospherics without drifting into cliché.

Employing a combination of choral voices, distorted percussion instruments and traditional orchestral interludes, Fakhrara gives Lou an off-kilter ambience that changes the game. Rarely does a score work so seamlessly alongside sound design in communicating character emotion, or creating specific atmospherics. In many ways, without that crucial element, even the presence of these two leading ladies on devastating form would have struggled to elevate the material.

via Netflix

That is not say that Lou is a bad film, far from it. Every piece of this movie is perfectly polished, keenly executed and sincerely delivered. Yet despite all that, there is no escaping the fact that audiences will have seen this before many times over elsewhere. One-woman armies in films like Salt or Atomic Blonde have tackled a similar character, while Linda Hamilton’s grizzled Sarah Connor in Terminator: Dark Fate is the most obvious recent comparison to make.

Again, this is in no way taking anything from Janney, who literally pulls no punches when it comes to inhabiting the physicality of the role. Battle scarred and army fatigued, Lou is a remnant from another time, unable to escape the choices she has made. In Hannah, she sees an opportunity for redemption and absolution in her final days.

Unfortunately, all the efforts of both actors to elevate this film through solid performances comes undone in a transparent final act. Secrets are revealed, connections are uncovered and audiences will be disappointed as Lou shamelessly leans into formula. Confrontations occur, recriminations are rife and it all ends riddled with predictability.

So much so, that the only truly memorable element of Lou remains that devastating score. A bold and brazen exercise in experimentation, earning this survival thriller an extra star all on its own.


'Lou' is a polished piece of action drama from Netflix and Bad Robot, which gets by on solid performances from Allison Janney and Jurnee Smollett. Combining with a unique score from Nima Fakhrara, this by-the-numbers Netflix release is worth a watch for Janney alone.

Review: 'Lou' is saved by solid performances and a great score