It has been interesting to see the movie release strategy in the pandemic era when it comes to films that range from barely decent to mediocre. Something like Martin Campbell’s latest action flick, The Protégé, would have probably just been dumped in theaters at the end of summer with hardly anyone even noticing it’s even in theaters.
And some of that is true, as it got a late August theatrical release. But at the same time, I saw just as many ads and trailers for The Protégé as I did the new Marvel blockbuster.
The title character, Anna Dutton (Maggie Q), is an exceptionally trained and skilled secret assassin who moonlights by day as a vintage bookkeeper in London. Her life is turned upside down when her mentor, Moody (Samuel L. Jackson), and a handful of other people in her professional life are killed off one night.
Rather than go into hiding, Anna vows revenge for Moody and along the way gets mixed up with another assassin, Michael Rembrandt (Michael Keaton). When she finds the bad guys are abroad, Anna is forced to revisit her past in Vietnam, the same location where Moody rescued her after she was orphaned as a child.
The Protégé is one of those forgettable action movies that’s right in between being legitimately good and being so bad it’s unintentionally amusing. Campbell knows his stuff when it comes to blockbusters, as he is the man behind two of the best Bond efforts: GoldenEye (1995) and Casino Royale (2007).
The cast is decent, with Q reminding us she can fit right into the action heroine role nearly a decade after leading the CW’s “Nikita” (2010-13); while Keaton and Jackson do their usual schticks. Though a lot of the time you do have to suspend your disbelief with how invincible the characters can take blows at each other. We also don’t get an explanation for Anna’s American accent while being Vietnamese by birth and raised mostly in London.
Unfortunately, as far as the screenwriting goes, the plot and especially the dialogue of The Protégé are very schlocky and pedestrian. Particularly surprising—and this might be a reflection of how long Campell’s been in making films—is the brutally graphic violence and fight sequences, plus there is even an unnecessary topless shot of two women. It almost felt like I was watching an action-adventure movie from the 1980s.
This is probably one of the more visually gruesome releases you’ll come across lately. The fights and explosions are well directed and shot, but the clichés and unmemorable characters hold The Protégé back from being intriguing. I will note though, it was a little amusing to see Jackson’s character have a bad cough at the beginning of the story without any mention of COVID-19.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.