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"Barely Lethal" Movie Review

Barely Lethal
Photo courtesy of A24

"Barely Lethal" (2015)

There is a secret organization run by a man named Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson) that trains young girls from an early age to become Prescott's, cold-blooded assassins. Agent 83 (Hailee Steindfeld) has always been one of the best trainees. The only problem is that she doesn't want to be there. She longs for something else. She wants to experience growing up as a normal teenager, concerned with dating and what movies to see, rather than her current choices of killing her target with a knife or a gun.

Agent 83 is sent out in the field to capture Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba), a notorious arms dealer whose repartition of being ruthless is well founded. Agent 83 finds her target and apprehends Knox but in the process, Agent 83 falls from the rescue plane and by all appearances, dies. Agent 82 successfully survives the fall and decides that this is her chance at a normal life, she can let Hardman think that she has died. A few weeks later, she poses as a foreign exchange student from Canada and finds a nice family to take her in. She now realizes her dream of becoming a normal teenager. But soon the former agent, now going by the name Megan, is going to discover that being a high-school student is just as dangerous as being an international assassin.

Photo courtesy of A24

This movie is a mix mash of several different genres. It's a teen film with its roots in films such as "Mean Girls" and "Clueless." Several times movies like "The Breakfast Club" or "Mean Girls" are quoted in the film. It's a fish out of water film, as Megan has always been home-schooled by Hardman and her only points of reference to being a teen are teen magazines and teen-oriented films and TV shows. It's also an international spy movie with references to James Bond.

Photo courtesy of A24

The film is part action film, part romantic comedy (teen edition), and it's the comedic elements where the film doesn't always work. There are a couple of very funny scenes; one where Megan explains to her possible love interest, Cash (Toby Sebastian), on how a real life hit is different than the video game he is playing. She goes into great detail on how she would proceed to enter the compound and confront the bad guys. The problem is that most of the attempts at humor are a little heavy-handed and don't work. The film does a better job at the action sequences, and Steindfeld does a believable job at being a bad-ass agent who can take down a bad guy in just one move.

Photo courtesy of A24

I liked Steindfeld in this film, as she has a commanding presence and makes the shift easily from the tough agent to the lost high school girl, at almost a moment's notice. She has great chemistry with both Jackson and Alba, making their roles believable. I also liked Toby Sebastian as Cash, the most popular boy in school who shows an interest in Megan. Sebastian works well with Steindfeld, and he makes the cool guy seem interested in her quirky character. I did get tired of his signing (he is in a popular band in their high school). The actor who steals the movie is Thomas Mann, who plays the first guy who is nice to Megan. Mann is perfect as the nerdy A/V guy who is secretly in love with Megan and their scenes together as some of the best of the film.

While "Barely Lethal" is not a bad film, this movie could have been a game changer for the teen romance genre. Instead, it followed the same old plot lines of the films that Megan watched to learn how to be a teenager. It's an opportunity lost, especially with the outstanding cast this film has.     My Rating: Bargain Matinee

My Ratings (From best to Worst): 1).  I Would Pay to See it Again 2).  Full Price 3).  Bargain Matinee  4).  Cable  5).  You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

"Barely Lethal" Website

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