Lou is a mysterious woman who lives largely off the grid, save for her beloved aging canine companion. She hunts, keeps to herself, and also clearly has baggage, as evidenced by her behaving like someone who doesn’t want to live long. She has an antagonistic relationship with her sole known tenant, Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), a young single woman living with her daughter on the property Lou owns. From the outset, it’s clear that Hannah is a loving mother, her daughter Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman) is a sweet kid, and Hannah will do literally anything to avoid talking about Vee’s father. That’s a bad sign. When Hannah’s disgraced Green Beret-ex Phillip (Logan Marshall-Green) arrives and takes their daughter, it’s up to Hannah and Lou (aided by the latter’s Special Set of Skills) to rescue the child from the bad man’s clutches.
Lou as a character is a fairly transparent archetype. Still, Janney’s approach genuinely works. She’s a stern character with a darker-than-expected background that brings some deep and deadly personal ties and failings to the fore. It would still be nice for the audience to have a little more meat in the characterization beyond the functional. Lou is almost entirely functional and little else, like a birthday cake without frosting.
Smollett’s Hannah gets the lion’s share of the emotional weight, as a mother who has survived abuse only to be faced with the loss of her daughter. While Lou is clearly the heavy between the pair, the script (co-written by Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley) makes the smart choice of letting her find her inner badass along the journey instead of hiding behind the “stoic hero.” The changes are subtle, but they’re welcome and give the performers a bit more novelty than one might expect.
Marshall-Green’s villainous Phillip is ably performed, with an interesting blend of evident sociopathy behind the manipulative facade of a loving father. Altogether it makes for a trio of performances that succeed where they need to, though all three characters remain somewhat underwritten in ways that belie the potential dramatic heft of their backstory. The characters seem a little perfunctory and thin, but the performers themselves elevate the film a few layers beyond its otherwise sparse scripting.