‘Kimi’: Zoë Kravitz clicks as a tech nerd who avoids public places — until she can’t

Steven Soderbergh directs lean, no-frills psychological thriller for HBO Max.

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In her job monitoring the exchanges of a smart device like Siri, Angela (Zoë Kravitz) thinks she hears a murder in “Kimi.”

New Line Pictures

The corporate suit can hardly control the condescension dripping from her words as she downplays an employee’s claim about having evidence of a violent crime.

“I have to know what we’re dealing with,” says the suit.

“We’re dealing with what sounds like a premeditated murder,” comes the reply.

‘Kimi’

Untitled

New Line Cinema and HBO Max present a film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by David Koepp. Rated R (for violence, language and brief sexuality). Running time: 149 minutes. Available now on HBO Max.

“How do I know that?”

“Because I just told you. Twice now.”

Rita Wilson plays the suit who is already in damage control mode before we’re even sure there’s any damage, and Zoë Kravitz is the employee who comes to her with information about a possible murder. Kravitz’ Angela Childs is agoraphobic and obsessive-compulsive and speaks in a blunt, borderline anti-social manner — so on this rare occasion when Angela has mustered the courage to venture into the real world, she’s not about to be “handled” by some higher-up. Kravitz and Wilson are terrific together in a scene that requires just the right touch to pull off that noirish dialogue.

Ah, but we’re getting into the weeds of the thing before we look at the seeds of the thing, i.e., the latest semi-experimental film from the prolific and wondrous mind of Steven Soderbergh, who in the last few years alone has delivered the psychological horror gem “Unsane,” the sports drama “High Flying Bird,” the social satire “The Laundromat,” the cruise ship comedy/drama “Let Them All Talk” and the period-piece crime thriller “No Sudden Move.” With “Kimi,” Soderbergh pays homage to Hitchcock (in particular “Rear Window”) and the 1974 classic “The Conversation” in a lean, no-frills psychological thriller featuring some of the finest work in Zoë Kravitz’s career.

With her blue hair and orange hoodie and awkward yet somehow graceful movements, Angela is almost like an avatar of herself, and that’s the way she likes it. Every morning, Angela at least considers the possibility of leaving her loft apartment and venturing outside, and there are times when she makes it to her front door, keys in hand, coat on, ready to make human contact — but then the world closes in, and Angela retreats to the comfort zone of her computer station and her work.

About that job … Angela is a Seattle-based “Voice Stream Interpreter” for the Amygdala Corp., a tech company that makes a Siri/Alexa smart device known as Kimi. (You start the conversation by saying, “Kimi?” and the reply always comes, “I’m here.” Also, I’m told the amygdala is the mass of gray matter that serves as the integrative center for our emotions.) Each shift, Angela sifts through hundreds of exchanges recorded by Kimi, searching for commands that could be misinterpreted, double meanings, words that could be misunderstood, etc., all in the name of providing customers with a smarter, better, more interactive and intuitive Kimi.

When Angela isn’t working, she’s often lingering by the window, watching the activities on the street below and in the building across the way; yes, she’s The Woman in the Window With a Cup of Coffee Who Is Afraid to Leave the House. She’s even struck up a relationship of sorts with a dashing and likable guy (Byron Bowers) who lives across the street — though the “dating” consists of him coming over, them having sex and her kicking him out. (On top of everything else, Angela has intimacy issues.)

When Angela hears something disturbing on a stream, she isolates the sound and determines she has ear-witnessed a murder. Now it’s a matter of staying ahead of the bad people and figuring out if some of the good people are actually bad people, and what’s with that guy across the way who trains his binoculars on Angela 24/7?

“Kimi” is filled with the kind of sparkling cameos and supporting work we’ve come to expect from a Soderbergh cast — but always and throughout, this is Zoë Kravitz’s vehicle, and she delivers a smart, empathetic and badass performance in this nifty gem about a woman who has to step outside in more ways than one.

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