Though it’s obviously conceived as an action vehicle for Maggie Q, this freelance assassin thriller sports enough of a pedigree to give publicists an easy time with the name recognition: directed by Bond veteran Martin Campbell, written by Equalizer/Expendables scribe Richard Wenk, and co-starring two reliably popular male geezers, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson. Fortunately for Maggie Q’s resume and reputation she deports herself exceptionally well in the stunt department. The countless gun- and fistfights take advantage of her cool economy of movement, thus fortifying her character’s superhuman professional attributes as a contract killer. But by this stage in human civilization, there is no more hackneyed genre than hitman movies, and The Protege struggles mightily to give you any reason for why you would need to see it other than its featuring a lone woman killing dozens of burly dudes in the course of a few minutes. Jaded isn’t the half of it.
Even the double revenge premise of the plot fails to engage. Q’s Anna was rescued as a child when Jackson’s international contracter Moody found her cowering in a closet with a gun in Da Nang after a job. He raised her as an apprentice and even bought her a bookshop in London to act as her cover while she took over his business, and when he’s murdered, seemingly for that job in Da Nang 30 years ago, she goes after the people who called in the hit, which takes her all over the world but also eventually back to Vietnam. Along the way she is pursued by a guy with the unlikely name of Rembrandt (Keaton) who seems to be a factotum for one of the Mr. Bigs she thinks is responsible for Moody’s death. He’s typically intrigued by her skills and smarts and even when she’s being tortured by thugs nominally employed by the same organization he works for he helps her get her shit together enough to escape, mainly because there’s still an hour left in the running time and there are so many bodies left to plug and stab. Plus, they need to fall into bed at least once before they actually try to kill each other. Gross.
I don’t expect my underworld thrillers to edify, but the total lack of interest in Anna’s inner life or any proof that she even likes books that much just shows how lazy the whole production is. Personally, I hate pedigree.
Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).
The Protege home page in Japanese
photo (c) 2021 Makac Productions Inc.