Liam Neeson and Bob Odenkirk have recently shown the world that action heroes don’t necessarily have to be young and athletic. There is room for the older generation as well, and in Lou, Alison Janney has the chance to show off her prowess in front of the camera.
She portrays the title character, a retired woman hiding out in a forest cottage on a remote island for reasons that are initially kept secret. She has no interest in continuing to live as soon as the movie starts. She sends a letter to her neighbour Hannah (Jurnee Smollett) after taking all of her money out of her bank account, sits down, and puts a shotgun under her chin.
Lou and Hannah venture into the jungle in search of Phillip and Vee, a mission made challenging by the storm that has ravaged the island. Lou is accompanied by her dog Jax.
Lou’s new reason for living
Hannah wants Lou to use her tracking skills to locate her abusive ex-husband Phillip (Logan Marshall-Green), who abducted Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman), Hannah’s daughter. Lou agrees because she now has a new purpose in life, but also because she has other reasons for wanting to help Hannah that won’t become clear until much later in the movie.
Lou and Hannah hunt for Phillip and Vee in the bush, a difficult task made more difficult by the hurricane that has wreaked havoc on the island. Jax, Lou’s dog, is by her side.
After the violent confrontation in the cabin, there is a noticeable absence of action for the remainder of the film’s running length. Instead, the middle act drags on because of exposition concerning Lou’s shadowy history and her relationship to Phillip and Hannah. This significantly hinders the plot of the film since, instead of being the action-packed thrill ride it once seemed to be, it now turns into a twisting thriller with domestic themes. During the conclusion, there is one more fight scene, but it is overshadowed by the earlier unexpected (and intrusive) plot changes.
Lou seems a little bit unbelievable
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a movie that has a few twists and turns, but in Lou, they seem a little bit unbelievable. It would have been simpler to get into the premise of the movie if the script had been stronger and Lou’s past had been further developed. However, because we are just given the bare minimum of information about her personality and her connections to Hannah and Phillip, the plot becomes somewhat disjointed. While Janney is still entertaining to watch as the misanthropic retiree with a penchant for hurling scathing insults as well as hard punches, things never really get better, so the remainder of the movie loses a lot of its appeal.
Lou is therefore somewhat of a squandered chance. The performers all deliver strong performances, but the convoluted storyline falls short of their needs. It would have been much more entertaining if this had just been a movie about an elderly woman kicking bad guys in the butt while on a lone mission to rescue a kidnapped girl. It may be said that Janny has what it takes to be convincing as an elderly action hero, thus it is very unfortunate that she wasn’t given many opportunity to emphasise this aspect of her persona.
It’s possible that a sequel will make this movie right. I hope the screenwriters give us the female Taken that Lou first seemed to be, as the conclusion surely begs for a follow-up film if it is ever given the go-ahead. It might even include Judi Dench as a villainous co-star and include a climactic confrontation in which she and Lou beat one another senseless. That would be a good movie, and it would be far better than what we got here, which is disappointing for both Janney and the audience.