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 ever tighter.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
The Protégé is a nice throwback to the type of action movies I grew up on. It’s not groundbreaking cinema or anything, but it’s also not trying to be. It has a beautiful woman kicking ass and taking names, a bad guy you want taken down, lots of action and over-the-top violence and it doesn’t wander far from what it’s trying to do.
The underrated Maggie Q plays an assassin who was raised in the business. Samuel L. Jackson found her as a young child and raised her to be the woman she is. The film uses flashbacks to her childhood and death of her family to give her backstory, but it doesn’t get bogged down with them. Some movies give way too much backstory and they suffer because of it. Here you get just enough to understand who she is and why Sam Jackson is a father figure to her.
When that father figure is taken from her, she sets out to find the man behind it all. In comes Michael Keaton’s character. He’s not the man in charge, but he’s the man that gets the job done in his own way. He has principles and an attraction to this female assassin. The movie becomes the classic cat & mouse story along with a will they/won’t they substory. The action heats up with lots of violence and death. There’s a slight surprise twist, but ultimately it comes to the ending you expect. If it does well enough I could see a sequel, but with the box office a mess right now, who knows?
Over the past few years they’ve tried hard to get women to be action leads. Films like Peppermint and Atomic Blonde come to mind. In Asia it’s more common with films like The Villainess and Furie. Maggie Q herself was the lead in the TV show Nikita and has done a lot of action on the big screen as well. She’s great in the role. You 100% believe she’s capable of handling her business whether it’s with a gun, a blade or hand to hand. I’ve been a fan of hers for years and was happy to see her in this role.
At this point in their careers you know what you’re getting from Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton. Jackson can do these roles in his sleep. That’s not a slight, he’s done dozens of these movies over the years and he’s always good at what he’s doing. Keaton does more action than he has since his Batman days in this, but he also relies on a stunt double or two as well (you can tell). I can’t fault him for that, he’s not exactly Bruce Wayne’s age now, but he’s good in the role too.
The only real negative I have for it is Robert Patrick’s character. He’s the leader of a gang in Vietnam and that gang helps Maggie Q’s character track down a man, but ultimately Patrick could be replaced or cut completely and you’d still get to where you need to go. I think he’s underused here.
The under 30 crowd won’t think much of The Protégé. They didn’t grow up on the action/spy thriller/assassin films I did. They probably only know Maggie Q from the Divergent series. To me the movie feels like a 1980s or 1990s action flick. It feels like the type of movie that would have come out the same time as The Rock or Face/Off. There are a couple of fantastic kills and I loved the over-the-top violence and it’s definitely something I can see myself watch again. You’ll probably miss it in theaters, but definitely check it out on home video and streaming when it goes there.
CAST & FILMMAKERS:
Cast: Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Robert Patrick
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Screenplay by: Richard Wenk
Produced by: Arthur Sarkissian