Sweet Girl is another B-movie-ish action diversion caged in by the Netflix algorithm, alternating between a parody of the 1970s man-against-the-system espionage drama and a grief-driven retribution actioner. Big Pharma, more than any other organisation in film, lends itself to widely despised villainy. Almost all large corporations break regulatory rules, avoid paying taxes, and bribe government officials. Those who put business ahead of humanity and manipulate the system to keep life-saving medications out of reach deserve a lot of contempt. A generic evil with brand-name recognition, Big Bad Pharma is the epitome of a cliché bad guy.
Jason Momoa has an issue with Liam Neeson. Like how Liam Neeson has to justify his Irish dialect in any film he appears in, each film he appears in has at least one throwaway plot point describing what his character does for a career. However, let’s face it, it has been decades since Liam Neeson stopped attempting to hide his accent, and there isn’t much Momoa could do about his appearance.
Of course, having the physique of an Atlantean deity has drawbacks. Momoa will not be considered for the same jobs as Steve Carell, for example. However, there will always be a crossover between his films and those made by Liam Neeson every year. While Sweet Girl, his most recent picture, borrows extensively from films such as Taken, it never defines exactly what Momoa’s character Ray’s job is.
Anger-fueled, Ray vows to get back at his wife’s killer, a sneery pharmaceutical firm CEO who removed a possibly serious medicine from the shelf as a kind of price gouging. Ray stands inches away from her in her dying hours, watching a primetime TV debate with the CEO and deciding that threatening his life on national television is a smart idea. So he dials the news station and, in his best Liam Neeson impersonation, informs the CEO that he is on his way.
It’s hard to believe Sweet Girl was filmed in the 2000s, despite the fact that the hoodie-wearing Pharma dudes have just lately been recognised as cinematic baddies.
It’s the kind of film that takes a politically contentious topic — in this case, health care — and turns it into a schmaltzy B-movie. This would be wonderful, just look at Jordan Peele’s earning potential, but Sweet Girl refuses to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. And when the movie offers a narrative surprise so absurd that it jolts me out of my coma a little beyond the hour mark, this illusion snowballs into something much dumber.
Unless you’re a scriptwriter, you’d swat it away as soon as it crossed your head when thinking about creating a script. It’s safe to say that if a movie is prepared to be this wacky (without irony), it doesn’t give a damn about following through on fascinating concepts that it had built up in the past. Sweet Girl, at that point, ceases talking about a dysfunctional medical system and a man’s mission to right some wrongdoings and becomes a basic vengeance film. This 180-degree turn is so dramatic that the major villain is almost forgotten in favour of an insignificant executioner.
Unquestionably, Momoa has a commanding presence, but I wish more films could tap into his promise as a spectacular performance, without seeing the need to eventually give him a gun at some moment. What’s the purpose of emoting as much as he can if the screenplay resorts to violence to solve every problem? In a society that’s hurting from pandemics that revealed the economic inequality and Big Pharma’s commercial wrongdoings, it would have been understandable (and even desired) for Sweet Girl to be more bitter. However, it is very uninteresting.