This summer has already brought audiences two films that felt like they were unearthed from a Blockbuster graveyard (Those Who Wish Me Dead & The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard), and you know what they say about how all things come in threes… The Protégé is yet another action flick that tries to pretend it’s more sophisticated than it really is.
The film follows expert contract killer Anna (Maggie Q), who is forced into games of revenge and cat and mouse after her mentor/father figure Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) is brutally murdered. It’s a concept that has been done plenty of times before, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
The moments where The Protégé embraces its schlocky premise is where we see tiny bursts of excitement. Anna and Moody have a great surrogate father/daughter dynamic, which makes for some witty conversations. The same goes for the relationship between Anna and Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), another contract killer sent to take care of the Protégé. While their sexual tension and violent foreplay may venture into excessive cheese, it’s still enjoyable to see their verbal repartee.
Then the third act occurs. The last thirty minutes of The Protégé tries too hard to establish itself as a serious action film, losing what little bit of magic the first two thirds contained. Anna is barely given anything to do in the finale, which trades out action sequences with self-aggrandizing monologues. These speeches try so hard to comment on grief and trauma, but when the film doesn’t even give the main villain any kind of sinister motivations (at one point Anna just says, “He’s done a lot of bad things!”), it’s hard to take them seriously.
Anna’s side job when she’s not a hitman is as a rare book dealer, finding and collecting the most prestigious copies of history’s finest writings. If Anna were to come across a tale like The Protégé in her travels, she would likely burn it so the world would never have to read it again. And society would praise her for it.
The Silver Lining
After a long career of playing second fiddle to major Hollwood players, it’s great to see Maggie Q finally get the leading role that she so clearly deserves. The actress has such a natural chemistry with every actor that she makes Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson step up their game to keep up with her. While The Protégé may fumble at the goal line in a narrative sense, Maggie Q ensures that the film is an enjoyable watch in the moment.
The Protégé is now playing at a movie theater near you.