Martin Campbell directs Maggie Q and co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton in Lionsgate’s entertaining actioner, The Protégé. Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) and trained in the family business, Anna (Maggie Q) is the world’s most skilled contract killer. But when Moody — the man who was like a father to her and taught her everything she needs to know about trust and survival — is brutally killed, Anna vows revenge. As she becomes entangled with an enigmatic killer Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), whose attraction to her goes way beyond cat and mouse, their confrontation turns deadly, and the loose ends of a life spent killing will weave themselves ever tighter.
Richard Wenk is the screenwriter behind The Protégé, and ever since his debut with 1986’s cult classic, Vamp, I generally like his work as escapist entertainment. In the 21st century, Wenk saw a career emergence as an in-demand writer for big-budget Hollywood films that included The Equalizer and its sequel, The Expendables 2, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and The Magnificent Seven. Wenk’s latest movie opens with a quick backstory for Anna and Maggie before getting into the action of Anna at her job.
I enjoyed the setup for The Protégé and director Martin Campbell’s slow reveal of Anna’s skill level. Since her brief appearance in Mission Impossible III and less than a year later holding her own against Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard, I’ve liked Maggie Q in action roles. The Protégé gives the actress a chance to shine in numerous ways, whether tactical arms or hand-to-hand combat. I must also credit Richard Wenk’s script for avoiding clichés for his action heroine, such as sex appeal to get the job done or using one-liners.
Samuel L. Jackson provides his usual style in the role of Moody, and of course, he finds time to utter his catchphrase. However, I have to say, I most enjoyed seeing Michael Keaton on screen again, particularly in a fight scene that was reminiscent of his Batman days. There’s also an extended cameo by Robert Patrick, who is always great to see on screen.
In terms of direction, Martin Campbell delivers the goods as always. Campbell avoids shaky cam and uses an approach that fans may recall from his earlier films No Escape and Goldeneye. Campbell juggles the action and film’s storytelling effectively while never allowing the film to become campy or overly serious.
The Protégé knows precisely what kind of film that its audience wants to see and delivers. With a winning performance by our heroine, solid supporting work from veterans, and impressive action sequences, I recommend the film.
The Protégé opens in the theaters tonight
Final Grade: B-