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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

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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