Some films are just a little too silly for their own good. Fantastic situations go a long way in film and no one really wants to see an exact replication of reality in movies, but there’s something to be said about believability as well. Cat Run provides many elements of a satisfying film, but couples them with many extraneous variables and by the time the film comes together some audiences may be irretrievable from the brink of disappointment.
Catarina (Paz Vega) is a high-end escort who is hired to work a job servicing European and United States government officials. When one of the girls dies at the hands of a VIP, an order is given to exterminate the remaining women to prevent a scandal. Catarina is the only one to escape – with evidence, no less! As she tries to make the long journey home to her child, she runs into American expatriates Anthony (Scott Mechlowicz) and Julian (Alphonso McAuley) who are starting a detective business. Unfortunately for the amateur sleuths, Catarina embroils them into a world populated by seedy associates and hired killers, like the ruthless and relentless Helen Bingham (Janet McTeer).
What should have been a straightforward plot gets mired down in too many characters with too little character. Bad guys have henchmen who hire henchmen that require other henchmen to replace them. There are thankfully far less good guys, but they’re so busy bumbling their way across Europe that there’s very little to learn about them except that one is a college dropout turned failed chef and the other is the comedy relief. There are so many people to keep track of that the film resorts to onscreen graphics and mini-bios for every new character just so that audiences don’t get lost. The convention is interesting at first, but then it’s used for almost every character – even minor ones – and it becomes impossible to know who’s important to the story.
It’s a shame Cat Run didn’t focalize its attention more, because the principal characters are interesting in their own right. Catarina, for instance, is a prostitute, but her status as a single mother and the way she carries herself hint at a profession forced upon her. Unfortunately, her character isn’t explored much and she seems to have less screen time than a titular character deserves. The most interesting character in the film, however, is Helen Bingham. Her skills as a tracker and assassin coupled with her disdain for pornographers raise many questions about her history that would make a great film on its own. Audiences will be glad when Helen plays a more important role later in the story and its ones better filmmaking choices in the movie.
In fact, Janet McTeer is the highlight of Cat Run. While the rest of the cast does an adequate job with their roles, McTeer steals every scene with all of the details and nuance she uses to build her character. Moreover, she completely sells her role as an experienced assassin. So when she dramatically rips the skirt of her formalwear and engages in a fistfight, it’s completely believable.
Cat Run tries its very best to be an action-comedy, but it doesn’t quite get the proportions right. On one hand, the film features Helen Bingham who racks up a high body count by exploding heads and literally tearing out testicles. On the other hand, the film features fast-talking Julian and straight man Anthony playing out comedic bits, like renting out an office above a porno theater or hiring a one-limbed man as their secretary. While the comedy is humorous, it isn’t necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, but when the film gets violent it goes all the way.
Fortunately, the film does eventually find its stride and audiences will cheer the heroes on as they finally come together for a common goal. By then however, viewers will have already watched a fight involving a one-armed man, listened to a lengthy conversation about a man’s projectile bodily fluids and witnessed unnecessarily gruesome torture scenes. Audiences who can survive these segments will leave the theater satisfied. The rest may just leave the theater.