Sawa (India Eisley) is a young woman bent on revenge. Her parents were killed by a human trafficker known only as The Emir, leaving her with nothing. Her father’s partner, hard-bitten cop Karl (Samuel L Jackson) feeds her information, weapons…and memory-repressing drugs to enable her to fight through her darkness.
She kills her way up the local criminal ladder, assisted by a mysterious young man (Callan McAuliffe), trying to get to The Emir before gangs and the police hunt her down.
A live-action adaptation of a fairly grimy hour-long anime of the same name from 1999, Kite wisely ages its heroine up to 18 but for all its supposed female empowerment, the film clearly enjoys Sawa’s various wigs and sexy outfits.
The whole young-female-assassin schtick is already, in the wake of films like Kick-Ass and Hanna let alone La Femme Nikita, becoming old hat and there is little here to invigorate the set-up. The setting is a grubby near-future and the film is shot amongst the graffiti and crumbling concrete of Johannesburg for a fresh look, but somehow still manages to look cheap.
This is despite a real commitment to style – lots of silhouettes and smoke and edgy lighting. But it all feels a little film student-y and ends up like a feature-length music video with sluggish pacing and laborious exposition unloaded in a sequence of lengthy monologues. Eisley in the lead gives it a bit of effort, but the rest of the cast seem to just be going through the motions, aside from bit players with little acting ability.
The action scenes are serviceable and there is a fair chunk of gore, but Kite is a lightweight, forgettable film. Its by-the-numbers story (with a ‘twist’ so obvious you may have already picked it from reading the synopsis above) plods along in utterly predictable fashion, rapidly eroding any interest the set-up may have inspired.
In the end, Kite is a bit like its heroine: pretty, intriguing, but ultimately over-familiar.