Written by: Adam Vaughn | August 19th, 2021
The Protégé (Martin Campbell, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
Director Martin Campbell (The Foreigner) takes us on a true joyride with his newest movie, showcasing several exhilarating action sequences that blend perfectly with fun comedic timing, all put together to create a whirlwind adventure from start to finish. The film follows Anna (Maggie Q, Fantasy Island), who is rescued from death as a young girl by skilled assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard) and trained to be the best killer-for-hire possible. When Moody is suddenly murdered following his 70th birthday, Anna must take on a syndicate of crooked killers, led by Rembrandt (Michael Keaton, Spider-Man: Homecoming), an “enigmatic” leader who takes a romantic liking to Anna. As Anna seeks her revenge, a cat-and-mouse game unfolds between the assassin and crime boss.
The Protégé comes with some very favorable characters, handled with keen direction by Campbell. Maggie Q’s portrayal as Anna steals the show and may very well be a major highlight of her career to date. Q finds fun ways to bring a sense of depth to Anna’s character, thus managing to ever so slightly outshine her counterparts. Overall, all three performances—hers, Jackson’s and Keaton’s—are supported by the film’s writing and style, and the movie certainly succeeds in entertaining and delivering a strong, cohesive experience from start to finish. What helps The Protégé stand out is the way it incorporates humor with its intense premise. I was pleasantly surprised to see a slight bit of rom-com dynamic between Q and Keaton. This quite possibly becomes the film’s most cohesive story development, as Q and Keaton’s relationship as enemies with a romantic flair takes turns for the comedic, lustful and inevitably dramatic.
While The Protégé manages to bring all this to the table, it also showcases the individual talents of its leading actors above any sort of grander ideas. Anna’s journey is a typical rogue-assassin-seeking-revenge plot line; we’ve seen films like John Wick and Nobody before, and The Protégé certainly does good by riffing off this kind of storyline. Likewise, at times there are big reveals that attempt to keep the film intriguing, but inversely come across as gimmicky and a bit unrealistic. Such are the film’s minor downsides that keep it from pure greatness.
What the film does best is provide Q with a powerful performance to add to her résumé, as well as give Keaton and Jackson another well-deserved hoorah. Set against an interesting Vietnam background (with a considerable emphasis on how dangerous of a place it is) and featuring strong support from Ray Fearon (Julius Caesar), Robert Patrick (A Place Among the Dead), The Protégé keeps its viewers thoroughly interested. While Campbell may have tunnel-visioned the film into becoming the next of a long line of assassin-based action films, sprinkling in various other tones and themes, The Protégé by no means fails to provide a fun time.