Colin Farrell declined to render programmatic evidence!

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That may have been an interesting idea at some point. Onscreen, it comes off not as complicated evidence of Ava’s submerged humanity but rather an additional dose of sadism. The direction is an issue there, but so is the screenwriting and the acting: Ava’s growing sense of regret is treated as a plot contrivance, not backed up with any additional emotional depth. As great as Chastain is at looking sad, there isn’t much she can do with this empty a character. And while we know that she can be a tremendously gifted physical performer — one need look no further than Crimson Peak for evidence of that — alas, Ava abandons her there, too, sidelining the actress with its programmatic, thoroughly uninspired action scenes.

Turns out, upper-level management isn’t happy about that whole asking-targets-about-their-sins situation either. Even though Ava’s avuncular, immediate boss Duke (Malkovich) sticks up for her, his boss, Farrell’s smug, housebound Irish patriarch Simon, has decided to do away with their prize killer. (These two, to be fair, get one of the best scenes in the film. I won’t tell you what happens, other than the fact that Colin Farrell gets to crack a giant, insane smile.) Meanwhile, Ava returns home, where she attempts to reconcile with her estranged sister (Jess Weixler), who is now engaged to Ava’s ex-boyfriend Mike (Common). She also discovers that her mom (Geena Davis) has just had a heart attack. Also, Mike has a gambling problem and he likes to disappear for days into a giant gambling den/night-club run by shady gangster (Joan Chen). That’s right. This movie even has Geena Davis and Joan Chen in it! You’d think it would do something interesting with them.

At times, one wonders if Ava is trying to anti- itself into respectability, as if somehow undermining its own action scenes and scuttling its own belabored subplots and doing away with anything that might resemble a second act is a form of resistance against the predictability of action movies. A nightclub battle late in the film feels like it’s going to turn into one of those techno-fueled, hyper-rhythmic spectacles of slaughter a la Collateral or John Wick, only to peter out before it even gets started. Is that supposed to be an act of subversion? Because it comes off as incompetence. In order to subvert something … you have to subvert it, confront it with something of equal (or, even better, greater) creative force. Nothing in Ava feels that calculated. It feels like a movie where everybody involved just gave up halfway through.

A movie with more potential directions than its globe-trotting-assassin heroine has wigs, “Ava” offers moments that suggest it might have succeeded as an action thriller, a dysfunctional family drama, or a character study. Since it commits fully to none of these, the results are the sort of bland bang-bang-pow that keep Nicolas Cage and Bruce Willis afloat in between movies that critics actually like, or even see.

“Ava” comes with a pedigree — Tate Taylor (“Ma,” “The Girl on the Train”) behind the camera, and leading turns from A-listers like Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Colin Farrell, and Geena Davis — but the results are fairly generic; for every scene that draws you in with some smart writing or memorable acting, there are four more that suggest the kind of movie that gets released directly to airlines.