REVIEW: ‘The Protégé’ provides thrills despite plot issues

More action movies with Maggie Q please.

Anna (Q) is the protagonist in “The Protégé,” an elite assassin who works alongside her friend and mentor Moody (Samuel L. Jackson). The two are exceptionally efficient in their work and the film picks up with them successfully completing another mission.

As the film gets underway, Anna begins researching a new job, but soon after finds Moody murdered. With revenge in mind, Anna travels back to her homeland of Vietnam, where there may be some clues as to who killed her mentor. During her journey, she comes across Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), an assassin who works for another involved party.

This film starts off quite well. The first two acts make for a tight action thriller that gets straight to the point with brutal battles that utilize the film’s R rating. The action set pieces are also balanced by characters with plenty of character, especially the protagonist.

Scenes where Anna has to evade the same goons who killed Moody and then begin working on her quest for revenge definitely fit the bill when it comes to entertainment value. But what really makes it work is that Anna is simply a good protagonist to follow, as she has this suave personality with a bit of an edge.

There’s a wittiness to Anna, that makes her fun to watch. The same is true for Rembrandt, which makes for some enjoyable scenes when he and Anna share the screen. It’s almost like watching two characters with a sort of James Bond charm interact.

Then there’s the third act, where the film loses its way. Some additional plot elements are introduced, pushing the story into convoluted territory, and what was once a straightforward revenge flick gets muddled.

ProtogeBlog1
Courtesy Millennium Media and Lionsgate Films.

The movie’s final third could have been more forgivable, too, had the execution with the last confrontations been better. As it stands, the way the film ties some ends felt awkward.

The strength of the characters manages to keep the film afloat, though, as does much of the dialogue they share with each other. Writer Richard Wenk has done fairly good work in penning action protagonists before, in films such as the “The Mechanic” and “The Equalizer,” and he does it again with “Protégé.”

There’s a good balance Wenk seems to strike in his  works, where an audience can take these characters seriously, but the script is loose enough where the movie doesn’t take itself overly serious. It allows the characters’ dramatic moments to have an impact while also allowing an audience to sit back and enjoy the fun to be had with the banter and action.

Speaking of the action, there are also a few highlights in that category. One moment early on where Anna has to defend herself at her day job in a book store is a good one, as is a sequence where Anna and Rembrandt end up in a gun fight. The action is well made and nicely choreographed.

Wenk and director Martin Campbell didn’t break new ground with “The Protégé” but it’s still an above average action thriller. While the third act is disappointing, there’s enough with the characters and action to make this worth a matinee watch. 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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