Here’s a bit of film critic BTS for you: when a studio believes critics will dislike a film, they will either not screen the movie early, or they will allow critics to watch it early, but only allow them to publish the review once the movie is available to the general public. Unfortunately, this is one of those movies.
Brian Andrew Mendoza’s feature directorial debut is Sweet Girl, an action thriller starring Jason Momoa as Ray Cooper, a man grieving his wife who died of cancer due to a business decision from a pharmaceutical corporation named BioPrime.
Ray then decides to take matters into his own hands, going after BioPrime and their associates and avenging them alongside his daughter, Rachel (Isabela Merced). So even if you read this review and decide not to watch this new Netflix movie, you have already seen a movie like this.
Critics and audiences have been unkind to this film. At the time I’m writing this review, the film is sitting at a 21% critics score and a 46% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. But that’s fine with me; I’m okay with having the minority opinion because I enjoyed this movie.
This film opens with some of the best acting from Momoa’s career, in a heartwrenching scene where he loses his wife. Is this an easy way to get the audience to sympathize with the hero? Yes. This is the second movie of the weekend to begin with our protagonist’s spouse dying after The Night House.
In every way, this is a by-the-book revenge thriller that adheres to the formula as closely as possible. There’s no denying how familiar this premise is, especially given that this film comes out in the same weekend as The Protégé, another action film about a person avenging the death of someone they’re close to.
But this movie has a unique angle on the idea. The movie immediately addresses the issues surrounding Big Pharma and the corporations putting money ahead of lives. It’s always welcome to see certain political issues be addressed in genre films.
As far as the action sequences go, they’re serviceable. Unfortunately, they don’t offer much that we haven’t seen before from the genre, and it’s easy to say that there are much better action scenes in superior films. However, the action is always entertaining while you watch it, and Momoa’s stuntwork is on display.
What makes the action so compelling is the story. The desire for vengeance drives every fight scene in the movie, so it’s very satisfying to see Ray take down bad guys. The need for fatal justice adds tension to every fight, as we root for the protagonist to succeed.
The film spends just enough time on the main villain where we get some of his backstory, and we want to see him die, but we don’t remember him for much longer after the credits roll. However, a police officer in the film named Sarah Meeker (Lex Scott Davis) deserved more characterization than she got.
We also have a third-act revelation that may make or break the film for people. It’s a twist that recontextualizes the entire film and makes sense when you think back on the story, but it also feels like it only exists to pull the rug out from under the audience and is so far-fetched that it’s difficult to see coming.
Furthermore, the film's final scene genuinely makes no sense, given the events of the film. But overall, the movie does an excellent job of riding the line between a serious movie about a serious issue and an exciting action film. I can’t imagine the writers and director anticipating negative reviews because I don’t think this movie deserves them.
It’s much easier for critics to sit back and call a movie bad than it is to actually make a movie. This movie is a bit forgettable, but it offers the conventional action excitement we can expect from a movie like this.
Grade: ★★★★☆ [8/10, B]
Jonathan’s Tips: If you want to turn on an action movie and there’s nothing else to watch, check this one out. It’s not a waste of time. There are some good ideas here.
Sweet Girl is now streaming on Netflix.