By: John M Jerva
THE REVIEW: Filmmaker Martin Campbell has certainly had an interesting career to say the least. First of all, he is responsible for giving us some of the greatest James Bond films of all time in Goldeneye and Casino Royale and he even directed The Foreigner which happens to be one of Jackie Chan’s best and most intense films to date. He’s also responsible for such nail biting outings like No Escape but with all that, there’s one film that almost made him quit directing all together. That film would be the infamous Green Lantern with Ryan Reynolds. That’s a whole other story which would take some time but lets just say that Campbell has returned to form with his latest which is the star studded, action drenched spectacle known as The Protégé. It’s a film that rises above the old standard cliches mainly due to the people in it.
The Protégé features one hell of an ensemble cast in lead Maggie Q as well as Robert Patrick, Nick Fury himself Samuel L. Jackson and the one and only Michael Keaton. All you need is Robert Redford and this might have been the greatest casting we’ve seen in a long while. It’s hard not to like a film with this much star power in it and it’s because of them that the film rises above said cliches and problems that would sink most movies.
The plot is nothing we haven’t seen a thousand times before in that it’s another assassin story. That right there puts it going up a mountain because it seems that in the last few years, the assassin flick has been done and done and done. Q is now taking center stage as Anna who, as a child, was rescued by fellow hitman Moody (Jackson) who proceeds to raise Anna and share with her all the tricks of the trade to being a deadly contract killer. Nothing says love like showing your adopted daughter how to use heavy weaponry and pummel your foes into submission. Now this isn’t spolier material as it’s in the synopsis but Moody is killed one unfortunate day leading Anna to go on a kill mission to find those individuals responsible. Anna is lethal and it’s going to take an army to stop her from getting her cold dish of vengeance.
Like I said, the plot is standard fair but the cast elevates it and with Campbell’s direction and some pretty bad ass hard R rated action beats, this one should satisfy even the most jaded of fan. Now it’s true that once again there will be comparisons to a certain action franchise with Keanu Reeves in it (after all, it’s from the same studio don’t you know?) but that’s to be expected and while this does borrow from the John Wick handbook on how to take down as many men as possible in a single scene, Maggie Q shows us once again why she’s one of the queens of action. From her stint on The CW’s Nikita to other flicks like Dragon Heat and King of Fighters, Q punctuates every scene she is in whether it be bullet and fisticuffs riddled or dramatic and low key. Q plays Anna tough but there’s also a sympathetic side to her that makes you care about her and it’s even refreshing that she’s shown as somewhat human as she does take a licking but keeps on ticking.
What can you say about he rest of the cast? Robert Patrick is always up to the challenge with his stoic features and gravely voice and Samuel L. Jackson is, well, Samuel L. Jackson mother f@ckers. His character of Moody might not be in the film as much but when he’s there, one can’t help but stay glued to the screen as Jackson is given some opportunity to give us some genuine Samuel L. Jackson moments. It’s his scenes with Q that also give the film heart, purpose and substance and the only drawback there is we needed more of that.
Now lets talk about Batman, uhm I mean, Michael Keaton. His turn as the charming one second and menacing the next Rembrandt steals the show. Keaton is definitely having a resurgence as of late and we all know that he’s returning to his iconic DC role in The Flash but it’s films like this that shows us why he’s one of the best. You don’t know what to make of his character which keeps you on your toes and his scenes with Q are electrifying and slick in its dialogue. Keaton is as advertised here and it’s phenominal to see him turn on a dime with his go for it performance.
In terms of action, The Protégé takes a little time to rev up but that’s a good thing as Campbell fleshes out the characters. I’m Ok with slow starts as long as there is payoff and with this flick there is, without a doubt, payoff. Pure, violent and satisfying payoff. Once we get adrenaline, we get some decent hard R rated action with Q delivering in the physical department. There’s a few scenes of violence that will jolt you and I for one was excited to see some good old fashioned bloody mayhem. Yes there is similarities to Baba Yaga but Q makes it her own and I couldn’t help but smile as it reminded me of her terrific stint on Nikita. It’s slick, polished and unlike some other films, the editing is decent and the action is center stage and coherent for the most part.
Keaton gets to have fun as well with the brute force stuff and has one hell of a scene in which he gets show off his action chops. It also deems him as a suitable opponent for Anna and it would be interesting to see Keaton do more of this in the future. We all know that he was and is Batman but it makes me wonder if he would have been more successful at the action thing. He did do One Good Cop back in the day which has some solid shootouts as well as American Assassin more recently where he got more physical but unfortunately he went more the drama route for the crux of his career.
The script from writer Richaed Wenk is sharp and above standard and the cast has a great time delivering the material that would probably be more forgettable with a host of no names doing it. The script gives everyone involved their moments and I especially liked the exchanges between Q and Keaton. I won’t go into spolers here but there are a few welcomed twists to the plot that also saves the movie from falling into the hole of dispair like others that came before it. There’s some second guessing that goes on and things aren’t always what they seem. Did I mention Keaton steals the show?
All in all, The Protégé doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it definitely does what it’s supposed to do which is let the A Team cast shine and give action fans some brutal and in your face action set pieces. Q is back in the action driver’s seat and Keaton and Jackson leave more than their mark. It’s hard to make assassin movies stand out anymore but with the talent in front of and behind the camera with this one, audiences should leave the theaters happy because after all, if you’re going to see this movie then chances are, you’re the target audience. There’s enough here to like and while I didn’t love it, The Protégé is a blood soaked good time and a good reason to go out and see a movie once again.