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Netflix’s Lou gives Allison Janney the John Wick role she’s always needed

With some Liam Neeson in Taken as a side dish

Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Allison Janney has always been a badass, from her fierce, no-nonsense performance as press secretary and eventual chief of staff C.J. Cregg on The West Wing to a long string of similarly frank and forceful roles in movies from The Help to I, Tonya. But Netflix’s upcoming movie Lou finds a new kind of role for her, as the kind of “secret ass-kicker with a sordid, submerged past” character that movies like John Wick and Nobody have made into a screen staple over the past decade-plus.

Janney stars in a story that looks mighty familiar from the Liam Neeson hit Taken and the infinite copycats that followed: When her neighbor’s young daughter is kidnapped, she hits the trail with a very particular set of skills, determined to get the girl back. That alone might not sound like enough of a draw in an era where the plot-light female-led action movie is also becoming a screen staple: Just look at last year’s crop, including Kate, Gunpowder Milkshake, Jolt, and The Protégé, or this year’s medieval-martial-arts blowout The Princess.

But just watch the new trailer for the movie, and see if it isn’t startlingly convincing. It feels like a natural extension of Janney’s familiar screen persona: Her ability to go hard, dominant, and in control over any interaction melds well with confident, devastating violence. As her neighbor, Jurnee Smollett (Black Canary from Birds of Prey) brings a softer touch to the story, but still comes across as protective and determined.

Director Anna Foerster has a lot of experience with action, from the 2016 movie Underworld: Blood Wars to episodes of Jessica Jones, Westworld, and Outlander. She was the second-unit director on Aeon Flux and on Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 BC. But for in-the-know action fans, the real draw of this trailer may be Janney’s fight against Daniel Bernhardt, the longtime stuntman/henchman who trained Bob Odenkirk to fight for Nobody. Bernhardt is a mainstay of movie fight sequences, from The Matrix Reloaded to John Wick to Logan, Hobbs & Shaw, and Birds of Prey, and his presence on a film like Lou generally means the star is going to look great while whaling the tar out of him.

Lou will debut on Netflix on Sept. 23.

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