Everything about The Protégé makes it seem like nothing more than a conventional pot-boiler of an action flick. And, rightfully so, as the plot has nothing new to offer under the sun. Action genre vet Maggie Q portrays Anna, the titular protege. As a child in Vietnam, Anna was rescued, brought to The States, and subsequently raised by an infamous hitman known only as Moody (Samuel L. Jackson). Of course, Moody acted as a father figure to Anna and brought her up to be a world-class assassin like himself. Thus, there’s no stopping the protégé when she embarks on a violent mission of vengeance after a job involving her mentor goes wrong!
As I said, you’ve seen this type of action with a similar or even near-exact plot numerous times. So much so that similar flicks have gone direct-to-video or streaming in the past — a fate that is a less chaotic world with a more traditional model of film distribution. But, we sure don’t live in such a world, and movie distribution has essentially become like the wild West. A land in which its release format cannot judge a film’s quality. However, The Protégé elevates and earns its exclusive theatrical release by bringing something with it that other genre films of its ilk don’t – pedigree.
Aside from casting A-lister and fan-favorite Jackson, the film also stars Michael Keaton (of the upcoming movies Morbius and The Flash, respectively) in a charmingly villainous turn as Rembrandt, a higher-up in the underworld of contract killers. Together, Q and Keaton light up the screen with sexual chemistry in every scene they share. While these big names certainly raise the standard material and archetypal characters, Q holds her on-screen with them. Sure, she’s played this same type of role several times. The fact is, though, that she’s perfect for it.
Surprisingly, The Protégé is not slumming it when it comes to the behind-the-camera talent, either. No stranger to this genre, director Martin Campbell takes the helm for the movie in review. Now, if Campbell’s name rings a bell, it’s because he also directed two of the greatest James Bond films ever made: GoldenEye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006). Granted, that doesn’t mean I can fully forgive the director for the abomination that is Green Lantern (2011). But, even with that big dud, Campbell is a very impressive action director, and The Protégé proves no exception. Campbell and company deliver on exciting action sequences that don’t skimp on the R-rated gore, nor the eroticism in one case. Alas, I do think the director’s visual style has suffered a tad in the digital age. What used to be a mix of grit and warm beauty is now simply the latter, except flatter.
Despite its lacklustre plot by screenwriter Richard Wenk (of the upcoming Kraven the Hunter), whose work seems to attract bigger budgets and stars than one would expect continually, The Protégé is a highly entertaining action movie. (Well, maybe not to the older cat who snored his way through half of its runtime.) If nothing else, the film is a fun distraction from everything going on around us. Moreover, The Protege is worth watching for Keaton alone if you’re a big fan of the actor like me. Not to mention it’s much better than the previous assassin-centric picture Keaton headlined.