The Protégé

Or, Why Is It So Hard To Find A Good Starring Vehicle For Maggie Q?

What’s The Movie? The Protégé

What’s It All About, JG? Mostly, figuring out why the awesome Maggie Q is stuck in rote nonsense like this instead of having Michelle Yeoh’s career. But more specifically Anna (Maggie Q) is an assassin, rescued from Vietnam as a child after a massacre, who completes high-profile, high-target missions around the globe. Her rescuer/mentor, Moody (Samuel L Jackson), is killed after a mission and Anna seeks revenge. That’s it, basically. Oh wait, there’s Rembrandt, as played rather wonderfully by the always-excellent Michael Keaton, who has a fuck me/kill me thing going on with Anna, and who works for the person she suspects of killing Moody. They flirt, have sex, have gun battles, flirt a bit more… you know, standard relationship stuff. Eventually it turns our Moody’s not dead after all, and he sacrifices himself to take down Vohl, the movie’s Big Bad, apparently because he has a bit of a cough. The end.

Why Did You Give It A Go? Because Maggie Q is in it and, as may be clear at this point, Maggie Q is awesome. And, you know, it sounded like a decent Friday night beer-and-pizza movie.

Is It Any Good? Eh. It’s just a rote assassin-with-a-revenge-mission plot with a slightly better cast than you would expect to be involved in something of this lackadasical quality. Honestly, the first forty-five minutes or so could quite easily convince you that you were watching an episode of Nikita. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – Maggie Q’s Nikita is perpetually under-appreciated and terrifically good fun – but the problem is it really looks exactly like an episode of Nikita. Which is to say that a movie released in 2021 has the same look and production values as a low-budget action series released a decade earlier, aside from its outsized cast.

And the cast work wonders with the limited material they’re given. One of the character quirks assigned to Anna is that she runs an antique books store – it’s where she first meets Keaton’s Rembrandt – but it’s completely arbitrary and seems to have no connection to any other part of her life. Someone just shuffled a deck of Character Traits cards and came up with assassin, troubled past, likes books and moved on with their life, and that’s true of pretty much all the characters here. Samuel L Jackson’s Moody likes playing classic guitars. Why? *shrugs* Guess that one got pulled out of the Character Traits deck for some reason. The saving grace here is that triumverate of the central cast, but really – this ought to have been so much better than it is. People turn up, have their One Trait In A Scene, then move on. It’s just sloppy (or lazy, take your pick, really).

How Many Of These Have You Seen? I’ve seen most things Maggie Q has done, from the great (Nikita) to the good (Designated Survior, surprisingly, though the US version isn’t a patch on the Korean remake) to the dreadful (Die Hard 4.0).

Would You Recommend It? Same answer as Is It Any Good? which is to say, eh. It’s not the worst way to spend a couple of hours but this should simply be way better than it is. It’s directed by Martin Campell, who’s done everything from (the really rather brilliant) Goldeneye to The Legend Of Zorro, so this really shouldn’t have ended up looking like a cheap episode of television. There’s nothing cinematic about the film at all, it’s all just point and shoot, and that renders the whole thing terribly unengaging. Vietnam looks like Any Asian City, despite the fact they actually went to Da Nang to film the bits set there, and there’s no sense of location in any of the actual settings.

The spark between Anna and Rembrandt mostly saves the day in the end, so if you want to maybe give Campbell credit for directing his actors well enough to get good performances out of them go right ahead, but Maggie Q and Michael Keaton can do this kind of thing in their sleep so I’m kind of loathe to give credit there. As for the rest, well, Samuel L Jackson does make a tiny effort here – absolutely not a given at this point in his career – which helps, and there’s a few other ringers in the cast, including a rather wasted Robert Patrick as a biker, and Patrick Malahide as Vohl, who simply acts like he’s wasted (and who could blame him?). But really, this is just terribly hard to get worked up about, and that’s a shame because it would really have taken very little extra effort for this to be moved from an “eh” to a “fuck yeah!” Sadly, it was not to be, and the redoubtable Maggie Q will just have to wait for one more go-around to get the movie she actually deserves, rather than this one, which she’s actually stuck in.

Scores On The Doors? 7/10 and that’s almost exclusively for the cast.

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