Friday, August 20, 2021

Maggie Q kicks butt; her movie -- less so


Maggie Q kicks a ton butt in The Protege, a thriller that can't quite decide whether it wants to leap into John Wick territory or play things straight. It winds up doing a bit of both -- albeit with uneven results. Q proves convincing as Anna, a woman plucked as a child from Vietnam in the late 90s and trained to be an assassin by Moody Dutton (Samuel L. Jackson), a guy who knows the killer's trade all too well and who recognizes young Anna's talent for the job. Director Martin Campbell tries to light some May/December sparks (tempered by plenty of nasty battling) when Michael Keaton shows up as Rembrandt, a man with his own killer chops and a sense that he's smarter than every other character in the movie. Rembrandt works for a rich white guy who has devoted his life to exploitative capitalism in Vietnam. Campbell stages plenty of action with violence levels that become increasingly outlandish as the movie makes its way from London to the British countryside and, finally, back to Vietnam. There, Robert Patrick turns up as a motorcycle-riding rogue who leads a band of scruffy associates. The actors seem fully committed to the screenplay's silliness, even in a scene that strains for humor when Q's Anna and Rembrandt, reach under a table and point pistols at each other's genitals. In her non-lethal life, Anna operates a bookstore specializing in rare volumes. She also drinks martinis. Remind you of anyone else? Like many such movies, The Protege requires a more than generous suspension of disbelief and never rises to the top of its kick-and-kill class. But it moves quickly, boasts a watchable cast, and features a performance by Q that doesn’t miss a beat, even when the movie tries to claim a bit of ethical high ground by telling us that Anna never kills anyone who doesn't deserve elimination. Nice of her, no?   

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