An impressive cast, an experienced screenwriter, a respectable director, and an amazing fight choreographer have collaborated to make the staggeringly dull revenge thriller The Protégé, a film that is reminiscent of so many indulgent knockoffs of Quentin Tarantino’s work.
The Protégé is an action movie with the proper nuts and bolts, but it’s not an efficient movie. The film starts strong by building a warm relationship between Anna (Maggie Q) and Moody (Samuel L. Jackson), while hinting at their backstory which went from complicated to commendable. It’s a relationship that’s so sweet and friendly that you almost forget these two are cold-blooded contract killers. When Anna’s world crumbles over the course of a night, permanently severing ties from her loved ones and colleagues, she sets out to hunt down the person responsible for her loss. This basic premise also sets up Anna to have lots of hand-to-hand combat with oodles of interchangeable brutes when she isn’t outrunning a hail of gunfire.
The action sequences are few and far between in The Protégé, but the scenes are awesome. Maggie Q, who has always represented herself as a bad-ass, is a marvel to watch as she commands the screen during these fights. From traditional weapons to more unconventional combat, the actor either has us amazed or laughing. Outside of those fight scenes though, Maggie Q struggles to defeat the weak characterization of Anna. The more Anna sinks herself into her mission, the more emotionally vacant she becomes. A case can be made that her numbness reflects how, even as a child, she’s become senseless to violence. But the on-screen interpretation by Maggie Q and director Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale, The Foreigner) doesn’t stick its landing and, instead, strips the personality of this interesting role. The character shedding gets worse when Anna begins an awkward and flirtatious relationship with Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), a dangerous man who can’t help but be enamoured by the hired gun.
It’s a rough estimate but, if you were to group all of these fantastic fights in The Protégé, there’s about 30 minutes of the movie that’s worth your time. The bulk of the movie, however, pads itself out with long-winded conversations and nonsense twists. A formulaic structure is okay if a movie can find ways to rise above it. If anything, The Protégé goes out of its way to dive beneath it.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie