Cover Miku Martineau and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Netflix's 'Kate'. (Photo: Jasin Boland/Netflix)

Netflix’s new, brutally entertaining assassin flick through the eyes of stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Miku Martineau

You’re an elite assassin. Orphaned at a young age, you’ve been trained to kill all your life. Elegantly skilled and extremely stealthy, going on a warpath and killing everything that stands in your way is something you can do with your eyes closed and your hands tied. People don’t know you and by the time they get to, it’s too late. But what would you do if you were given only 24 hours to get vengeance on the people who fatally poisoned you with a direct dose of radiation?

This is what 106 minutes of Netflix's Kate explores.

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The premise of Kate is familiar: cold and detached Kate (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a hired killer out for blood who meets and forms an emotional bond with young Ani (played by Miku Martineau), who just happens to have been recently orphaned because Kate killed her father during a mission in Osaka.

All around and in between, the Cedric Nicolas-Troyan-directed movie is peppered with bloody action sequences (not for the weak-hearted), scenes paying homage to the quirky Japanese culture (from music and fashion to a neon-lit street car chase scene reminiscent of 2006’s Tokyo Drift, to vending machines and Hayao Miyazaki's Totoro), and a touch of 'human' moments which made Kate seem less like an executioner fembot.

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While predictable, there are three main reasons to watch. First, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the tough-as-nails titular character. Second, newcomer Miku Martineau, who has the makings of becoming a kickass heroine herself. And finally, the over-sensory experience of Tokyo’s stunning landscape.

For the uninitiated, seasoned action film actress Winstead took on Kate fresh out of playing another vengeful assassin character, Birds of Prey's Huntress. In the action-sequence-heavy Birds of Prey, Winstead performed a majority of her own stunts, training months ahead to perfect her combat skills. As Kate, she was required to do the same, but this movie was much more action-heavy. So what drew her to the role?

"I was instantly drawn to the idea of Kate when it was first brought to me and I knew that Jojo (Jonathan Eusebio, the stunt coordinator) and his stunt team were going to be involved so that instantly piqued my interest because I worked with them on Birds of Prey and I loved them so much and the idea of getting to continue that relationship is exciting," Winstead tells Tatler.

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"I was a little hesitant about doing more action because I was a bit tired and also kind of seeking a break, but then I read the script and it was so good, and Kate is such a great character. It’s something that felt more challenging than anything I’d ever done before on so many levels, physically as well as emotionally. Just going as far as the film goes was something that was really exciting for me and I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity," she adds.

At the other end of the spectrum is the 17-year-old ‘baby’ of Kate, Martineau, who wowed us plenty with her acting chops in her first-ever screen role.

An ardent supporter of powerful, strong, beautiful, and influential women, Martineau plays the initially naïve Ani who quietly but quickly matures into a formidable character, modelled after her ‘sister figure’, Kate. Ani's story arc is set up in such a way that it enables audience to witness the pivotal moments which forces her to grow up real fast, from her father’s assassination to eventually becoming Kate’s trusty sidekick.

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When asked about the inspirations that she drew from to get into the character of Ani, Martineau says: “I don’t really think that I had any specific characters or actors that I related to Ani. She was a new character and I wanted to start off fresh and build off of her boldness, rebelliousness, and a defiant type of person.”

Left to her own devices to portray Ani, and for a movie that wasn't a remake or a reboot or an extension of a franchise, Martineau nailed her debut.

Breakthrough performance aside, Kate was undeniably an experience that’ll leave a lasting impression on the Canadian teenager, with shooting locations that included the US, Thailand, and Japan. Being half Japanese (her mom is Japanese) herself, Martineau particularly loved shooting in Japan. “It was nice filming there because we actually got to see family. I got to see my grandma and my cousins. They actually got to come to set too and when we were filming one of the very last scenes, we filmed in Tokyo right where my mom grew up so it was very cute.”

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Echoing Martineau’s love for Japan is Winstead: “I love Japan. We didn’t get to spend very much time there and it’s probably the ultimate place that I’d like to go back to as soon as I can travel abroad again. I’d like to spend more time in Tokyo but also explore beyond the city. It was just an incredible place to be.

“I ended up going to a little piglet café. Where else in the world can you just sit on the ground and have little piglets crawl all over you and cuddle them? (laughs) It’s just the most unusual thing to do there that you can’t do or see anywhere else. And the food, the sushi, you just can’t stop eating. It’s a beautiful and unique place that’s unlike anywhere else. I only got a tiny taste of Japan and it wasn't enough,” Winstead adds.

Prepare to lock and load for carefully choreographed battles in far-flung corners of Tokyo. Kate premieres on Netflix on September 10, 2021.

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