I’ve heard enough from Jessica Chastain to believe she simply wants to be treated like one of the guys. The problem with that is if your only goal is to be like everyone else, you’ll never be better than anyone else. “Ava” (2020) retraces the steps of “Atomic Blonde” by building a mediocre spy thriller around the novelty of a female assassin. Chastain’s subplot (complicated family and substance-abuse baggage) is also somewhat novel, but it’s a slight variation on a role her co-star, Colin Farrell, could have played in 2006, or Burt Reynolds in 1986 or Gene Hackman in 1976.

If Nicholas Sparks had written “Nell,” it would have ended up being “Where the Crawdads Sing” (2022). That’s an observation, not a value judgement. Actually, “Crawdads” is a very watchable contribution to the box-of-Kleenex film genre. It loves its setting in the Carolina marshes and the setting loves it right back, providing a sense of place that nourishes a formulaic fusion of class conflict, forbidden romance and courtroom procedural. Daisy Edgar-Jones welcomes us into her character, the star-crossed Marsh Girl, allowing us to focus on her journey instead of the simplistic plot devices that serve as all the other characters.

Early in “Apex” (2021), Bruce Willis’ character is described: “He used to be something great. He’s at the end of his rope now.” How cute. I see the filmmakers watching me watching them. Later, there’s a scene with movie references that make me believe they want me to believe they’re not taking this whole “The Most Dangerous Game” plot too seriously. It’s really camouflage for laziness. If you want to watch rich A-holes stalk humans, “The Hunt” is much better. Willis, as the prey here, seems perpetually tired despite his general lack of (acting) effort. Everyone’s dying to kill him.