Despite good performances from Jason Momoa and Isabela Merced, Netflix’s Sweet Girl has plot ambitions its action-thriller end result can’t meet.
Going after ‘Big Pharma’ is a lofty challenge, but one Brian Andrew Mendoza’s Sweet Girl sets itself up for. Combining corruption, conspiracy and revenge isn’t exactly a new cocktail for the action-thriller genre, and Netflix’s Sweet Girl isn’t treading any particularly new ground, but decent performances from its central pairing keep the otherwise dull affair from being too unbearable.
When an affordable alternative to a life-saving cancer treatment is taken off the market, Amanda Cooper (Adria Arjona) loses her battle. Her grieving husband Ray (Jason Momoa) vows revenge against the pharmaceutical company responsible, but soon finds himself embroiled in a dangerous cat-and-mouse chase where he has to protect the only family he has left: his daughter Rachel (Isabela Merced).
When a villainous character’s introductory scene includes the exasperatedly delivered line “this talking point of universal health care as a human right”, it soon becomes clear that subtlety is not on the menu. Sweet Girl has some lofty ambitions in that it wants to make a point about the innocent victims of Big Pharma’s greed and corruption, but it never quite achieves its goal. The script, by Gregg Hurwitz and Philip Eisner, is pretty bland and generic, never really delivering anything barbed, nor insightful enough, to emphasise its stance or offer a refreshing take on the man vs. goliath conspiracy idea. Instead, it treads more in the waters of generic revenge fare.
On the subject of genre, there are some good and some not-so-good action-thriller tropes on offer. The action is frenetic but slickly choreographed, even if it does fall into such cliches as having its characters be conveniently trained in martial arts, or having a train carriage immediately empty before a fight erupts. Jason Momoa is very adept at these types of physical roles, but also shows off a softer side in the film’s more emotional moments. His gut-wrenching wails of grief when Amanda dies feel raw and authentic, and the bond between Ray and Rachel is naturalistic. Merced is engaging on screen alongside him, proving herself to be a compelling screen presence and a sure-fire future star. Their performances just about carry what turns out to be an eye-roll-inducing third act revelation, but don’t quite stop the film from feeling a bit flat.
The banality of the script and the familiarity of the plot structure make it, quite honestly, a little boring. It’s simultaneously evenly paced and bloated, which make for a muddy middle section and a rushed beginning and end. While the close family dynamic is established well enough, a lot of exposition is thrown around to explain the situation before Amanda is suitably ‘fridged’ – wherein a female character is killed off to provide compulsion for the male hero’s emotional arc – and the audience is thrown into the action stuff. Even the inclusion of Rachel doesn’t make this sit any nicer, and a little bit more time spent as a family – even if just as a family of two – would have given the finale a bit more emotional weight.
Sweet Girl has some good ideas, but the execution lets it down. Momoa and Merced give good performances despite a not-so-great script, and the action scenes feel fitting within their context and avoid over-exaggeratedness. It’s just a shame that the plot can’t match its own idealistic ambitions for an ‘eff you’ to Big Pharma.
Sweet Girl is now available to watch on Netflix.