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Barely Lethal

Barely Lethal: Steinfield and Alba Star in Confused Teen Spy Comedy Drama

  • Hailee SteinfeldJaime King...
  • Action & AdventureComedy...
  • Kyle Newman
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Barely Lethal: Steinfield and Alba Star in Confused Teen Spy Comedy Drama

Aimed primarily at young teens – or anyone else who thinks that watching Mean Girls is the next best thing since sliced bread – Kyle Newman’s latest entry comes in the form of an inexpertly created and awkwardly told teen-spy-high-school-comedy-drama, who’s painfully characterless and senseless ways are probably better off left unviewed.

Working from a script written by John D’Arco – previous writing experience includes a relatively successful romantic short story titled, A Grocery Story – Barely Lethal is centred on Megan Walsh (Steinfeld); a talented teenage special ops agent who was raised and trained in a special spy school for orphans called PRESCOTT. Taught and brought up by the devoted and no-nonsense trainer, Hardman (Jackson), Megan – along with her fellow orphans – including Heather (played by the Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner), never really knew life outside the agency so, she spends most of her days dreaming of what it would be like to leave her current life behind and be a normal sixteen-year old American girl.

Luckily, she soon gets the chance to do just that and when a mission goes wrong and she is marked as MIA; seizing the opportunity, she quickly fakes her own death and enrols herself in high school as an exchange student. However, it turns out that life as a spy-assassin is a lot less complicated than a high-school kid, especially when a viral video exposes Megan to her arch-enemy – ruthless assassin Victoria Knox (Alba) – who is determined to wipe her out for good.

With a cast that includes the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Jaime King, Jessica Alba and least but not least, Hailee Steinfeld – the talented actress who was nominated for an Oscar for her biting performance in 2010’s True Grit – it would only be natural for one to expect more from the proceedings. Unfortunately, Newman’s inexperience shows as Barely Lethal – a movie that tries to combine the teenage-spy genre with the appeal of a superficial high-school comedy– doesn’t seem to know how to get the best of both worlds, resulting in one disjointed, clichéd and forced piece of entertainment that lacks flavour and character.

The action – excluding Ms. Steinfeld’s superb physicality, combat skills and manoeuvres – is riddled with a cheap and shallow T.V quality-like special effects and not even the presence of someone like Mr. Sammy J – who to be fair has had some questionable roles in the past – can help keep it grounded.  Everyone seems to be game, including Alba as the pitiless killer however, the story just isn’t strong, smart or witty enough to handle the pressure.

This is yet another movie that should have gone straight-to-DVD; it says its Barely Lethal, we say it’s barely watchable. 

Like This? Try

Spy Kids (2001), Mean Girls (2004), Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) 

360 Tip

Hailee Steinfeld is soon to appear in Elizabeth Banks’ Pitch Perfect 2, to be released on May 15th this year. 

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