‘Hanna’ Review: Amazon’s Pint-Sized Assassin Mostly Misses the Mark

     March 25, 2019

hanna-amazon-sliceEverything about Amazon Prime’s Hanna indicates it should be more fun than it is. It’s adapted from the frenetic, Chemical Brothers-soundtracked film of the same name directed by Joe Wright. It reunites Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos on-screen for the first time since the pair starred in The Killing. Its story revolves around a teenaged assassin trained in the woods to kill dudes twice her size with ease. Its first trailer was subtitled with the absolutely wonderful phrase BABY HEIST, for goodness sake. And yet, outside of some tremendous lead performances and a few emotional bright spots, the eight-episode first season brought to life by David Farr (The Night Manager) never kicks into any gear close to what its potential suggests. Which is funny, because there’s a ton of actual kicking going on here. All that woodland training was apparently for naught, because it never really connects.

Kinnaman plays Erik Heller, an ex-CIA operative who rescues a newborn named Hanna from a mysterious, off-the-books government experiment. Heller and the child escape into the snowy Northern Europe wilderness, but Hanna’s mother, Johanna (Joanna Kulig), is killed in the attempt. For fifteen years, Heller trains Hanna as the perfect under-18 killing machine, basically Logan‘s X-23 with a Finnish accent. (She also ages into Esme Creed-Miles.) A chance encounter with a logger her own age sets off a chain of events forcing Heller and Hanna to flee the wilderness, pursued by ruthless CIA agent Marissa Weigler (Enos).

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Image via Amazon Prime

Creed-Miles has a presence that’s shockingly magnetic considering she really only broke out two years ago in Clio Barnard‘s Dark River. The Hanna character is a strange one; it would be so easy to make her a blank slate badness or so much a fish out of water she’s more caricature than human. But Creed-Miles sits comfortably in the middle, leaving the forest and entering a normal with a curiosity you believe, but also unleashing a shriek at all the right moments to remind you that, right, deadly trained assassin. And if anything works like a charm here it’s the character’s relationship with her surrogate father, thanks in large part to a performance from Kinnaman that’s charming in its weariness. Between Hanna and his futuristic cowboy-come-to-town routine in Netflix’s Altered Carbon, Kinnaman has really washed most of that Suicide Squad stink off himself. The man can do action—and does plenty here—but he really shines in small moments. Heller gives Hanna a sideways look in Episode 8 that is filled with such pure, genuine paternal love that I’m relatively sure it could get a person pregnant.

Unfortunately, the two are asked to carry a premise that is stretched mighty thin, even over a mere eight episodes. The entire thing plays out in pretty basic fashion — Heller and Hanna get separated, Heller and Hanna are reunited, mix with explosions and repeat until the end. It can be fun—watching Hanna snap random goons’ necks is good for at least one jolting “oh, wow” an episode—but a cat-and-mouse game is hard to draw out. Eventually, the mouse either gets caught or is just sitting there, you know?

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Image via Amazon Prime

Farr and Co. try and add depth to the movie’s bare-bones plotline by having Hanna temporarily stay with a British family, becoming quick best friends with the rambunctious teen daughter Sophie (Rhianne Barreto). It’s clear what the series is trying to do, contrasting the violent covert-ops storyline with a coming-of-age B-plot to illustrate the tug-of-war happening on both sides of Hanna’s being. But the two stories never actually gel into anything meaningful; Hanna dips her toes into a normal teenager’s life—boys, house parties, two different scenes where Hanna discovers the joys of dance music—but nothing of much consequence happens as a result. (Although Hanna does kick a dickhead teen boy straight in the face in easily the most rewind-able moment of the show.)

What’s left beside the emotional throughline is the action, which arrives often and bone-breaking enough to make Hanna a perfect mindless binge. It’s the type of extremely digestible choreographed violence, pretty much indistinguishable from, say Amazon’s Jack Ryan, that works fine if you’re looking to escape into a shootout or 12. (The outlier being a sequence from director Jon Jones‘ Episode 3 that sees Kinnaman going on a one-man-army tear through a city, a set piece more thrilling than the rest of the series combined.)

But Hanna really doesn’t have any drive outside of shepherding the character between these shoot-em-ups. Which is a shame, given the uniqueness of that character; once out of the woods, literally everything in the world is new to Hanna. Somewhere in the attempt to turn this story into a series, it feels like Hanna forgot to stop and be curious in between ass-kickings.

Rating: ★★

All eight episodes of Hanna premiere on Amazon Prime on March 29.

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