THE PROTEGE (2021)
SYNOPSIS: Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) and trained in the family business, Anna (Maggie Q) is the world’s most skilled contract killer. But when Moody – the man who was like a father to her and taught her everything she needs to know about trust and survival – is brutally killed, Anna vows revenge. As she becomes entangled with an enigmatic killer (Michael Keaton) whose attraction to her goes way beyond cat and mouse, their confrontation turns deadly and the loose ends of a life spent killing will weave themselves even tighter.
When you think of onscreen kickass heroines, Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Q immediately comes to mind. While Yeoh has enjoy a flourishing career juggling between action and dramatic roles, Q’s career on the other hand has been pretty unremarkable since the end of her hit TV series, Nikita.
With The Protégé, she is back at what she does best- being a kickass heroine. Q stars as Anna, a girl adopted and raised by legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) after her family was mercilessly massacred in her home country, Vietnam. Fast forward years later, we see Anna running a bookstore selling rare books in London at the same time taking on high-profile contracts with her mentor, Moody. When Moody for no reason decides to investigate an old case in which he is associated with, Moody and Anna’s becomes the assassination targets instead.
Written by Richard Wenk who gave you The Equalizer, Jack Reacher 2 and The Expendables 2, The Protégé is filled with too many unnecessarily convoluted subplots and characters that it is better to concentrate solely on the action scenes. Talking about complicated and intrigue, we are introduced to Rembrandt (Michael Keaton) shortly after. However, Rembrandt is not the movie’s main antagonist, in short, he mainly worked for the bad guy. He is just another hired horny assassin who simply wants to get in bed with Anna but also wants to kill her.
Michael Keaton of course is vanilla smooth as Rembrandt. The Oscar nominated actor was Batman and still is. His character actually is far more compelling, and Keaton instantly nails it with a wicked grin opposite Q despite their decades old age gap. However, Wenk’s screenplay gets too busy tying up too much loose ends that the characters become too murky to be memorable.
As if Q, Jackson and Keaton is not enough to justify your admission ticket, Wenk throws in Robert Patrick as a Harvey riding tough guy in Vietnam who provides Anna with the relevant information she needs. Of course, how can we forget Martin Campbell, the helmer of this flick. The man behind Goldeneye, Casino Royale and the disastrous Green Lantern. To be fair, Campbell is far more consistent with his action than his storytelling. The Protégé pulls off a couple of well-choreographed fist fights between Anna and her attackers. Even Keaton and his stand-in deserves a round of applause. That leaves us with Jackson. Without spoiling the movie for you, let’s just say he only appears for a fraction of the screentime.
For the most part, Campbell and Wenk nails it thanks to the handful of accomplished action sequences and the charismatic presence of Maggie Q. Everything else especially the choppy parts on childhood trauma, mystery and revenge is a drag to follow.
Review by Linus Tee