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Netflix’s 'Lou' with Allison Janney is a twist on Taken — should you watch?

Allison Janney in Lou on Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Lou, which just dropped today (Friday, Sept. 23) on Netflix, arrives at a very competitive time for streaming. As our Andor review said, it's one of the best Star Wars shows to date. There's also The Rings of Power episode 5 that just dropped today, and House of the Dragon episode 6 looks to be a major shake-up of the cast. 

But Lou offers something different: Allison Janney and Jurnee Smollett in a thriller to track down a lost child. Yes, West Wing veteran Janney has found her own Taken, as she's in the Liam Neeson role of the gruff badass. 

We must wonder, though, does Netflix have a winner on its hands? While Lou certainly looks like a movie that will spend time atop the Netflix Top 10 Movies chart, critics are mixed on this one. And it all seems to be about expectations.

So, should you stream Lou? Will it wind up on our list of the best movies on Netflix? Let's find out. 

What is Netflix's Lou about?

Lou (Allison Janney) is a loner who keeps to herself, living life with her dog and her tough attitude gained from what appears to be a dark past. Life has a way of stopping people from keeping to themselves, though, as Hannah Dawson (Jurnee Smollett) and her daughter Vee (relative newcomer Ridley Bateman) run afoul of Lou one day in the wilderness.

While Lou and Hannah don't get along at all, Hannah soon finds herself relying on Lou — as Vee is kidnapped by a strange man. And making matters worse, it all happens during a storm. 

Lou takes the lead in the hunt, but Hannah refuses to stay back and not help hunt down her own daughter. As they hunt down Vee and her kidnapper, Hannah begins to learn how violent Lou can be. 

Obviously, Lou's past will be revealed to Hannah throughout the hunt to rescue Vee.

Lou reviews: What critics say

Vee currently holds a barely-not-rotten score of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) — and that's born out by its mixed-bag of positive and negative reviews. 

The positivity starts with John Anderson at the Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab), who credits Janney for "making us linger so long over Lou," when American action thrillers often get worse and worse the longer you watch. Through her performance, he notes, Lou rises, as "Janney keeps us involved during the more meditative moments of Lou." As for the movie overall, though, Anderson notes that you shouldn't expect the world, writing "Sometimes you just want a crazy action movie to kill an evening, and Lou fits that bill. Just don’t expect to be thinking about it tomorrow."

At the New York Times (opens in new tab), Jeannette Catsoulis continues the praise for Janney, writing "Unfazed either by the working conditions or by Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley’s ridiculously over-the-top screenplay, she lends her grouchy character more than a ramrod spine and steely stare: She gives her a woundedness that keeps us watching long after this prolix quest for redemption should have reached its preordained conclusion."

(L to) Allison Janney as Lou and Jurnee Smollett as Hannah, in the rain, in Lou

(Image credit: Liane Hentscher / Netflix)

Brian Tallerico at RogerEbert.com (opens in new tab) isn't as happy with Lou. He writes that "Without spoiling, Lou has one of those suspension of disbelief character connections that requires robust writing and direction to push through it. When a movie takes a sharp, unbelievable turn, viewers are willing to set aside skepticism if the story keeps them entertained. But Lou can’t manage this trick, allowing us to question the logic of it all in a way that makes the emotional scenes later feel hollow."

Benjamin Lee at The Guardian (opens in new tab) is also not impressed, writing "Who is Lou? What is Lou? But most important, why is Lou? I haven’t a clue after an intermittently diverting but mostly unremarkable 107 minutes, a film unworthy of both Janney’s talents and our attention. Lou briefly teases that it’s really about something before yanking the veil from our eyes, holding up its hands and shrugging."

Outlook: Should you stream Lou?

Lou, as you can probably tell, is the gender-flipped Taken that many probably have been asking for. Janney is no action hero, but she's proving here that she's "still got it" even if the 'it' is something nobody ever expected from her (a lead role in an action-thriller).

That said, expect Janney to be Lou's strong suit. The critics barely acknowledge Smollett's performance in the film, so don't think Hannah is going to be a major positive or negative for the flick. But in a weekend where you could use for some distraction? Lou looks to provide.

Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.