In the Netflix action-thriller Sweet Girl (a.k.a. this week’s daddy-daughter movie), star/producer Jason Momoa is a bulky mass of working-class vengeance. He plays Ray Cooper, a long-haired, Pittsburgh family man who spends most of the movie either beating down or taking out dangerous people who want him eradicated before he gets too close to The Truth. Little do they know that their target practically lives at the gym and has been hitting the punching bag and sparring in the ring long enough to possess the kind of hand-to-hand combat training usually reserved for Navy SEALs.
According to the movie, this is what happens when someone loses a loved one to cancer. Cooper goes on the warpath after a major pharmaceutical company pulls a drug off the market that could’ve saved his dying wife (Adria Arjona). (The company is run by Justin Bartha, who we know is playing a tool because we first see him on a news show rocking an eco vest.) Cooper nearly joins forces with Vice to take down said company via exposé, but the team-up is short-lived, brought to an end by a violent attack that leaves him stabbed and the reporter dead. Cooper eventually goes on the run, his disapproving-but-loyal daughter (one-time live-action Dora Isabela Merced) in tow.
At this point, it should be mentioned that Sweet Girl has a Big-Ass Twist. If you’ve been watching movies for the past 25 years, you’ll see it coming even before the first half is over. Once you do catch wind of it, there’s a certain sick kick to be had from the ridiculous hoops first-time feature director Brian Mendoza and his screenwriters, Gregg Hurwitz and Philip Eisner, jump through to provide hints while still keeping the audience in the dark.
The Big-Ass Twist may take you back to 1999, when the two movies Sweet Girl rips off the most came out. To be honest, the whole movie is a big, clunky throwback to ’90s cinema. The adult-and-child-on-the-lam thing was something that got played to death back in Clinton-era multiplexes. (Anybody remember Bruce Willis protecting an autistic kid in Mercury Rising?) The movie even has its own version of the iconic De Niro-Pacino sitdown in Heat, where Cooper has a rather respectful meeting at a diner with the dedicated hitman, played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, hot on his tail.
As hellaciously predictable and preposterous as Sweet Girl is, it could win over viewers nursing their own grudge against Big Pharma. Mainly, though, this is a vehicle for its star, that brawny softie Momoa. The brute-with-a-dad-bod doesn’t just prove that he can whup ass in this century (and without the aid of CGI). He also plays his blue-collar hero as a sensitive savage, warm and loving with his loved ones when he’s not tearing apart those endangering them. Dude has a lengthy crying scene and everything! In that way, Sweet Girl is a different kind of ’90s throwback: It turns The Artist Formerly Known as Aquaman into the living embodiment of Robert Bly’s mythopoetic men’s movement—an Iron John (or Iron Jason, as it were) for the 21st century.