• Release Date: 20/08/2021
  • Cast: Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Director: Martin Campbell

Anna (Maggie Q), a Vietnamese victim of war violence is rescued by Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) and brought back to the states. Moody fine-tunes and ups Anna’s already heightened thirst for macabre and violence and turns her into one of the world’s most sought-after assassins. The two spend years doing hits together and using the money to sponsor a lavish and comfortable life. One day, Moody asks Anna to dig around and find out whatever she can about a certain Lucas Hayes. She is asked only to trace down the man and do nothing more. Shockingly, her effort to dig out this elusive figure brings down the wrath of an unseen and unheard off enemy on her and Moody.

Moody is brutally murdered along with most of the other associates of Anna who she valued emotionally. Moody’s death robs her of the last family that she had and makes her go all guns blazing against the men who carried out the hit. Why was Moody killed? Who are the people trying so desperately to kill her and the rest of the gang and why? Will Anna be able to destroy the gang and avenge the death of Moody? These are just some of the questions that drive the narrative of the film.

Hollywood makes a film The Protégé at least once or twice a year. Films like these follow a predetermined path, have nearly the same major twists and turn, and are generally entertaining when efficiently directed if not worthy of remembrance beyond 48 hours of viewing. The Protégé is no different except for one count. It has performances from Michael Keaton and Maggie Q that feel just too good to be a part of a film like this and make you remember the film for much longer than it deserves to be remembered for.

Michael Keaton plays Rembrandt, a charismatic man en-tasked with protecting one of the primary targets of Anna and keeps running into her under different circumstances. In every single one of those situations, the sexually charged banter between the two grabs your attention as if it was the best part of the film. Keaton always has the right things to say to Maggie Q‘s character and she in turn always has the best replies. Soon the audience is enveloped in their charming chemistry and is more interested to learn what happens of the odd relationship of the two than whether or not Anna is able to finish the task at hand of avenging Moody. Atleast that was the case with me.

Maggie Q is grossly overlooked when it comes to Hollywood characters. I feel that she along with Gong Li are two of the most beautiful and proficient Asian-origin actresses working in Hollywood today. Not only is she ethereal when she wants to be, I felt that she did fairly well in selling the rather physical aspects of the character of Anna convincingly. One has to give credit to Martin Campbell where it is due in shooting Maggie Q in a manner that pulls the illusion of her doing most of her own stunts proficiently. Even for Michael Keaton, the same is true as he is too old to do even a fraction of the action that he is shown doing unless he was bitten by the same realism bug that earlier got the better of Bob Odenkirk in Nobody. While the action of the film is proficiently executed and leaves no room for any complaints, it is the dramatic exchanges between Maggie Q and Michael Keaton that prove to be the highlight of the entire film. Samuel L. Jackson is ever as likable but unfortunately, he has too short a screen time to make any considerable impact on the narrative.

Once the magic and intrigue of the exchanges between Maggie Q and Michael Keaton run its course it becomes hard not to notice the many loopholes in the plot and the blatant lack of logic and realism in many aspects of the narrative. Coming from Martin Campbell who directed some of the best action adventures between decades, it was hard for me to put up with some of the editing fallacies that this film had. More on that later.

The film left a truckload of unanswered questions. What terrible things had the primary antagonist done in the past that made him feel so threatened? How was he able to hide in plain sight after faking his own death with the entire world watching? Why was he so inclined to kill Moody and Anna when he could have just derailed their search for him instead? Why did one of the henchmen of the antagonist kill his partner when he could have just picked Anna clean out of the situation? Why didn’t Rembrandt just do his job and kill Anna instead of fooling around with her? Why did Moody have to blow up the Antagonist’s entire castle to kill him when he could have just shot the man and walked away? Why did Anna have to share her coordinate or facilitate Rembrandt’s search for her? Why Did Rembrandt and Anna have to kill each other? Why was Anna dumb enough to not see and understand that Moody had faked his murder? I could go on and on with the questions.

As mentioned earlier, I found the editing of the film to be questionable at many junctures. There are sequences that when you see will give you a feeling of being abruptly cut halfway through when there was apparently a lot of it still left unfold. This happens more than once. This not only spoils the fun of otherwise perfectly designed and executed sequences but also raises questions on how it was allowed to be this way by a director who ought to have known better.

Having said all that, The Protégé is still like that delicious and comforting “Dal” that can be enjoyed with both “Roti” or “Rice” and can be unceremoniously forgotten the moment “Chicken”, “Mutton” or “Paneer” arrives on the table. This doesn’t make it a bad dish but just forgettable. If you are looking for some disposable entertainment wherein you don’t have to apply yourself but instead can just kick back and see charismatic and beautiful people do things that suit them, The Protégé can be a rewarding experience. 

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Also read: People were not thinking of me: Dino Morea on films, OTT and ‘The Empire’

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