Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

MISS MEADOWS. Entertainment One, 2014. Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Ava Kolker. Written and directed by Karen Leigh Hopkins.

   Miss Meadows, starring the very talented Katie Holmes, whose acting skills can’t save the movie from being a complete misfire, is not so much a feature film as it is a quirky premise caught on tape. Imagine a tap-dancing, prim and proper schoolteacher who is also — wait for it – a vigilante killer. She’s quirky, charming, funny, and deadly with a small pistol. She kills the bad guys because, you know, someone has to. Call her a softer, gentler, Charles Bronson.

   Intrigued? So was I.

   Which is why I decided to watch Miss Meadows in its entirety, unaware that the entire story is the premise. Well, that’s not entirely true. We get subject to an entirely forced love story between Miss Meadows and a law enforcement officer we only get to know as Sheriff (Yes, just Sheriff) and a series of flashbacks that show that Miss Meadows (Holmes) is the way she is because she witnessed her Mom being shot dead when she was an innocent child.

   Disclosure: I actually really like revenge and vigilante films and feel that they are continually under-appreciated as a film genre. When they work best, it’s mostly on a visceral level. We empathize with the protagonist, hoping he (or she) will achieve his necessary revenge. We very much want the bad guys to get what’s coming to them. Proportionally, of course. But we also are nuanced thinkers and realize that revenge has to have a cost. (Even Charles Bronson’s character in Death Wish was forced to leave New York at the film’s end).

   Case in point: William Lustig’s brilliant Vigilante starring Robert Forster, in which Forster’s character succeeds in avenging the murder of his son, but at the cost of his wife leaving him. In some ways, it’s an exploitative and nihilistic film, but it’s a hell of a good one.

   That’s not the case in Miss Meadows, where the gun-toting vigilante ends up with a loving, quirky husband, a child, and a beautiful, large home in the suburbs. If this is meant to be satire or a black comedy, it falls flat. If it is meant to send a message, it’s an entirely nauseating one. Not so much because the bad guys didn’t deserve it, but because the film refuses to engage with the revenge/vigilante film genre in a serious manner and promotes the idea that a quirky premise should hold the viewer’s attention for nearly ninety minutes.