Let’s cut right to the chase.
I didn’t like SWEET GIRL (2021) all that much. In fact, it’s one of the least satisfying action movies I’ve seen this year.
I was interested in seeing SWEET GIRL, which is now streaming on Netflix, because it starred Jason Momoa, who I like a lot, but not even Momoa could save this dud. Truth be told, Momoa’s lackluster performance is actually one of the reasons this one is a dud. But the biggest reason this movie falters is it has a story that doesn’t resonate, that comes off as weird at times, and that sports a major plot twist two thirds of the way in that doesn’t work at all.
In SWEET GIRL, Ray Cooper (Jason Momoa) is desperate to save his wife Amanda (Adria Arjona) who is losing her battle with cancer, all the while trying to care for his teenage daughter Rachel (Isabela Merced). When an experimental drug is pulled from the market before it could be used on Amanda, Ray is livid, especially when he learns it was pulled by a pharmaceutical company strictly as part of a business decision. When Ray sees the CEO of the company on a TV news program, he calls in, and he threatens the CEO on the air if his wife should die. Well, Amanda dies, and… yup, Ray turns into a vigilante against the big drug companies.
Now, I don’t like these companies any more than the next guy, but there was something forced about this plot point of Ray going ballistic against a pharmaceutical company that made a slimy decision to pull a drug that may or may not have saved his wife’s life. The way it was handled in this movie made Ray seem more of an unhinged nutcase than a vigilante with a reason to kill. Not that it matters, because the plot quickly pivots. See, there’s more going on here than Ray knows. Yup, there’s more powerful people involved, and Ray learns this firsthand when a hitman named Santos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) shows up and starts killing the same people Ray is after.
The rest of the movie follows Ray and his daughter Rachel as they seek answers while trying to stay ahead of a pair of FBI agents and the murderous Santos. Until that is the big plot twist, which for me, didn’t work at all. It would have if Rachel’s character had been developed more. As a result, SWEET GIRL suffers from not being able to make up its mind over whether this is an action flick about Ray, about Rachel, or about both of them. As it stands, it doesn’t do a good job with any of these options.
As I said, I’m a fan of Jason Momoa. I enjoy him as Aquaman, and he was a memorable villain in the Sylvester Stallone actioner BULLET TO THE HEAD (2012). There’s a charisma about him that’s difficult to deny. Except, that charisma wasn’t really on display here in SWEET GIRL. Honestly, Momoa seemed so subdued here it was almost as if he were sleepwalking through the role.
Nor was I overly impressed with Isabela Merced as Rachel.
The best performance in the movie belongs to Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as the unstoppable cold-hearted assassin Santos. He’s so unstoppable that the way the story chooses to finally stop him is laughable.
SWEET GIRL was directed by Brian Andrew Mendoza. And while there were some decent action and chase scenes, they weren’t enough to lift this movie to something I’d want to watch again.
SWEET GIRL is nowhere near as good as the recent action movies GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021) and JOLT (2021).
The biggest culprit is the screenplay by Greg Hurwitz and Philip Eisner. It couldn’t figure out what story it wanted to tell. Was this Ray’s story? Rachel’s? And the one they eventually settle on seems to have been the wrong one. I mean, you have an action film starring Jason Momoa, and he’s not around to finish this one off? That’s a decision that just didn’t work for me.
And the other big problem the film has is when it decides to feature Rachel more as the action hero, it’s simply not as believable. Unlike last year’s thriller BECKY (2020), which starred Lulu Wilson as a teenage girl who seeks vengeance against a group of convicts who hold her family hostage, where Wilson took that character and made you believe that she could kick the crap out of the adult baddies in that one, here in SWEET GIRL, there’s simply not that same level of believablility.
As an action thriller, SWEET GIRL simply doesn’t satisfy.