Review – Sweet Girl

There’s a scene about an hour into SWEET GIRL when it finally feels like this all might turn into something exciting and interesting. Ray Cooper (Jason Momoa), with his daughter Rachel (Isabela Merced) in tow, enters a diner to confront the hitman who has been hunting them. Toward the end of the scene the hitman addresses Rachel, making her a focus of his attention. Up until now she has been an appendage to her Dad, but the killer makes it known that she is now a focus. For a few moments here, and at a couple points after, SWEET GIRL gives us a glimmer of the interesting movie it could have been.

Up until this point (which is past the half-way mark), the movie has been a drag. Ray Cooper and his wife Amanda (Adria Arjona) and Rachel are shown a happy family family who go camping and continuously show affection for each other. Ray teaches Rachel to fight in the ring and be a fierce competitor. Mom suddenly has cancer and the miracle drug that can save her is shelved in favor of profits by a greedy pharmaceutical company. All of the story so far has the depth of character and relationship of a 10 second flashback but it takes a quarter of an hour to get through. And while it establishes the inciting event for Cooper’s subsequent actions, it squanders time and attention that could be spent on the central relationship of the story: Ray and Rachel. 

This is a disaster because the movie never recovers. Ray lashes out and kills the pharma-culprits, as well as everyone who comes after him, like a movie-of-the-week John Wick, lumbering through a revenge plot that never feels anchored in real human motivations, peppered with dialogue that has characters saying exactly what the plot needs them to say, the words conjuring only images of a scriptwriter thinking that getting his points across is the only reason for writing. 

This is all a shame because Momoa is a wonderful presence and a decent actor who deserves better. None of the actors are helped by the writing and it’s impossible to tell whether any performances are good when there is nothing much for the actors to base their performances on. 

The police who are tracking Ray and Rachel are un-rivetting place-holders, not driven by much. Detective Sarah Meeker (Lex Scott Davis) feels a vague, motherly empathy for Rachel and wants to help her but there’s no internal friction between that and her duty to bring the fugitives in.

And then we get to the diner scene. For the first time, there is a little tension and though the words they say still seem stale and on the nose, at least we’re getting something to watch. From here we go into more by-the-numbers plot points until the movie crescendos into a plot twist that again, gives us a taste of a much better movie and makes us yearn for the enjoyable action movie this idea could have become. I’m generally not a fan of plot twists, which in good movies tend to trade tension and ambiguity in exchange for a sudden jolt of cleverness, but in this case, a sudden twist was welcome and the illumination of everything that came before made me wish even more that the film had been in better hands. It made the time feel better spent but it also made it so clear what had gone wrong and how fixable the whole thing could have been. 

It would be nice if someone had made that movie. 

Sweet Girl is streaming now on Netflix.

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