The Protégé Review: A far cry from mastering the action genre
In a growing and expanding action genre, The Protégé simply tries to ride on the basic formula to provide solid, but nothing special thrills.
The film follows Anna (Maggie Q), the protégé of renowned assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson), as she goes on a mission for vengeance after Moody and other cohorts of hers are killed because of a mysterious past contract. The film’s combination of director Martin Campbell and writer Richard Wenk is pretty substantial given their past work. Although no one lets Campbell forget that horrific Green Lantern movie he made, he did work on two very well-received James Bond films – Goldeneye and Casino Royale. As for Wenk, he’s has writing credits for both Equalizer films as well as plenty of other entries in other action franchises so there’s definitely a strong pedigree behind The Protégé and sometimes that shows.
There’s a certain slickness to the suspense and action that evoke some vibes of these behind-the-scenes players’ past works but stand out through Anna’s more calculated and determined mindset. The action is for sure fun to watch, and the R-rating lets the blood splatter all over the place and creates some brutal action. Anna’s definitely not against making deaths long and tortuous and there are some scenes that are truly brutal to watch – especially when Anna gets in the hands of the enemy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the ball whipping scene in Casino Royale kind of crazy, but it’s still pretty brutal.
Story and character-wise though, The Protégé is just running the spy-assassin thriller formula on autopilot with Q’s performance kind of being the only saving grace. Q’s performance is nothing overly remarkable, like most aspects of this film, but she makes Anna’s slick, calculated dialogue a lot of fun and adds in some solid emotion with Anna facing the violent life that Moody saved her from. She also has some solid chemistry with Jackson and Michael Keaton, who plays a smarmy, almost equally talented gun for hire named Rambrandt. As for Jackson and Keaton, they pretty much bring the usual charm they bring in just playing themselves.
While these main characters have their charm and the story has some solid moments, mostly at the start, The Protégé is a convoluted mess of tropes and terrible storytelling. Parts of Anna’s backstory are shoved in at inconvenient points, so the more emotional parts of her character feel disjointed. The warring romance between Anna and Rembrandt has its moments but is far from unique and becomes so tiresome and boring to watch with how much it drags on.
The film’s big twisty reveal is totally lifeless with how predictable it is and actually ruins Anna’s motivation to be going on this vengeful path in the first place. It’s a twist for the sake of a twist and it’s absolutely pointless. Honestly, the entire plot of understanding who’s behind Moody’s assassination is so worthless the film barely tries to explain it. It just strings you along from scene to scene and offers no satisfaction from uncovering secrets or understanding what’s happening. Outside of the main three, all the characters are super thin and don’t come with any real sense of importance. By the time you reach the main bad guy and figure out the motivation behind it you’ve grown completely tired of the mystery because the answers are so unimpactful.
Even with its strong pedigree behind the camera, The Protégé just hits the basics for an assassin action flick and barely does any of them right. It’s decent action and solid performances can’t save its messy story that’s barely coherent and the film ultimately lives up to its title in all the wrong ways with how it clearly still has a lot to learn to be a great action experience.