Barely Lethal: Film Review


The trailer for Barely Lethal made me sure this would be awesome – I love spy/action movies and I love high school comedies and this combined the two. I thought this genre blend would be sweet but sadly it just doesn’t do either genre justice and fails badly on both fronts.

Hailee Steinfeld is Agent 83, an orphan who has been raised in an academy training assassins by Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson) but she longs to be a regular girl and experience high school so she fakes her death and enrols in a student exchange program. She discovers school is not quite like she expected, she falls for the hot guy, has trouble making friends (the usual) until her enemy Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba) tracks her down for revenge.


This has moments were it is totally great but unfortunately there is not enough comedy to make it a decent high school comedy and it relies heavily on clichés. There is also not enough action to make this a decent spy/action movie. Every time they gear for a fight, I get excited that a major sequence is coming but it is over before it even starts. You only get flashes of Hailee kicking ass and I wanted way more as I think she could have pulled it off.

The dialogue is pretty lame, making the high school characters very stereotypical and the villains extremely camp. Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones) is wasted as Agent 84. She is so cold and lifeless and her opportunity to shine as an action star is too short as well. Nothing has a decent pay off. I think this is largely down to the budget. The effects look sketchy and from the editing it is clear what the girls do and what stunt people do. This is a shame because I reckon with a decent budget and an improved script this could have been really good.


I like Hailee Steinfeld and she gave her best within the limitations of the production. I also really enjoyed Dove Cameron as the student she lives with, her put downs were great, and I have an affection for Thomas Mann since seeing Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

I don’t recall laughing often and I was disappointed by how short the action sequences were and how little comeuppance the villains get. In other words, this is fun and it is pleasant enough to watch but it had the potential to be so much more.

In cinemas now 

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