The Protégé has the visceral action and suave creativity that one has come to expect from director Martin Campbell who most notably revived the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale in 2006. Combined with Richard Wenk’s screenplay, the film is something remarkably fun and unexpected: an assassin who owns a quaint corner bookstore in London. How curious.
The Protégé is a Wildly Fun and Sexy Assassins Flick
Maggie Q’s role feels like the culmination of everything that she has done in recent years, from the femme fatale Nikita to her roles in Live Free or Die Hard and Mission: Impossible III. Anna Dutton is both an impossibly skilled and deadly assassin and a vulnerable woman just trying to survive in a dangerous world. Anna’s duality is the driving force behind the most compelling elements of the film. Her kill-or-be-killed grit is unraveled through glimpses into her past and underscored in moments where she lets her guard down.
Samuel L. Jackson always understands the assignment. Anna is rescued by Moody as a child and the rough-and-tumble assassin takes her under his wing as the pair track down and kill bad people. When her father figure is brutally killed, Anna is sent on a mission back to Vietnam to track down his killer, unravel a mystery, and seek revenge for Moody’s death. This mission puts Anna in the path of an enigmatic killer whose skill and intellect are a close match to her own skillset.
Thirty years after Michael Keaton seduced audiences in Batman, he is still more than capable of wooing them with his charm and danger and The Protégé is a testament to that. His chemistry with Maggie Q’s Anna is electric, whether they’re flirting or fighting (mostly at the same time). For someone whose most iconic role is Batman, Keaton thrives in dubious roles like Rembrandt, where even though you know he’s bad, you just can’t help but like him, something that even Anna struggles with.
In order for audiences to fully be swayed by the larger-than-life plot of The Protégé, the spark between Q and Keaton has to be there and they completely delivered — time and time again. Both actors are skilled in not just delivering their lines, but delivering the physicality that is necessary for the roles. Anna and Rembrandt are trained killers, on opposite sides of a treacherous situation, neither of them are weak or demure. Their sizzling chemistry and banter make the blood and violence completely worth it.
The Protégé is filled with high-flying, heart-pumping stunts and intense hand-to-hand combat which were choreographed by stunt coordinator Diyan Hristov, who outdid his past projects with the creative and unexpected scenarios delivered in the film.
The movie utilized a very clever visual cue, as Anna processed her underlying trauma. The movie was bookended by flashbacks to her tumultuous childhood in Vietnam and, as the film progressed, her hair got progressively shorter, mirroring the moment where she chopped off her hair after killing her abductors as a child.
The Protégé is an exhilarating movie filled with high-octane action, copious amounts of blood and gore, and a sensual undercurrent of fight-or-flirt that has not been seen on the silver screen since Campbell gifted cinema with James Bond and Vesper.
While some may choose to see the final moments as a definitive answer to the fate of one of the characters, I maintain that the ending was left intentionally ambiguous. The Protégé leaves the door open for Campbell and Wenk to reunite in the future with a follow-up film. The world needs more badass female assassins like Anna in a genre that is oversaturated by Ethan Hunts, Jason Bournes, and John Wicks.
The Protégé is rated R and in theaters exclusively starting on August 20th. Find your local showtimes.