The Protégé, review: Maggie Q and Michael Keaton protagonists of an unusual action

The Protégé, review: Maggie Q and Michael Keaton protagonists of an unusual action

The Protégé, review

Still an action revenge, still a female protagonist: The Protégé is the new proposal by Amazon Prime Video for a genre that seems to have become the new, and in some ways unique, paradigm of western movement cinema. However, the film differs from the canvases we have been accustomed to lately thanks to a script that pays duty more to the classic action franchises of the 80s and to the unusual ironic charge that distinguishes the two protagonists Maggie Q and Michael Keaton.

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The Protégé: from predator to prey

Little Anna (Maggie Q) is saved by the hitman Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) who raises and trains her as her daughter. The two now form a close-knit and infallible team, but an unspecified evil is holding back Moody who asks Anna to carry out one last important mission: to find Lucas Hayes. To do this, however, the woman will have to return to her hometown, Vietnam, from which she was saved by Moody after the brutal murder of her family.

The task, however, is immediately difficult: Moody comes attacked in the house and killed. Anna swears revenge and flies to Vietnam where she immediately hires Billy Boy (Robert Patrick), head of a powerful local motorcycle gang, but she too finds a welcoming committee waiting for her, anything but friendly. Who is really Lucas Hayes? Anna begins to reconstruct the story of her goal back to her father, the international trafficker, Edward Hayes who had apparently died in an attack years earlier.

After a daring escape from a skyscraper in which she met the businessman, and Hayes' ex-partner, Vohl, Anna is nevertheless captured and tortured. Just as she is a prisoner, however, she realizes that she has been a pawn in a bigger game than her by making the official acquaintance of the very efficient Rembrandt (Michael Keaton).

Anna however is full of resources and manages to break free. Being captured is synonymous with the fact that she is on the right track, a trail that leads her to discover not only that Hayes is alive but also that Rembrandt is her bodyguard. The man begins to nurture a real physical as well as professional attraction for Anna and this only exacerbates the clash between the two, which becomes more and more personal.

When a sensational connection emerges between Hayes and Moody, Anna is increasingly determined to carry out her mission and the opportunity to do so seems to be a big party that Hayes is holding in an impregnable villa in the jungle. The plan to eliminate the man is uncompromising as is the final confrontation with Rembrandt. At this juncture, however, we relive Anna's origins, the real ones, which drastically change the perspective on her work and who she really is.

The Protégé: Maggie Q and Michael Keaton protagonists of an unusual action

After the decidedly stereotyped first half hour, The Protégé begins to derive its own personality, resulting discreetly fun and exciting precisely by departing in an increasingly clear and marked way from all that series of narrative and partly directorial stereotypes that distinguish the action genre of contemporary cinema. And that is enough to make the 100 minutes of the film run lightly, with some excellent moments.

The departure, calm by rhythm, pays the duty immediately, ideally as a huge easter-egg with two classics absolute like Léon and Nikita (recovered the original film in blu-ray on Amazon) given the presence of Maggie Q who had been the protagonist of the homonymous TV series remake of the film that aired on The CW from 2010 to 2013. The plot in fact does not is one of the most original with little Anna saved and trained by the expert Moody who becomes a foul-mouthed and grotesque father figure, a role that now seems to fit perfectly with an increasingly sarcastic Samuel L. Jackson in his interpretations.

Fortunately, however, there are no secret societies of assassins to fight against, nor backstories stuffed with the most popular rhetoric at the moment, Anna's past is in fact more traditionally brutal than what some sequences in analysts leave understand, but the script immediately turns towards extremely simple and direct shores and the plot becomes classically robust by identifying, in a plot characterized by a couple of discreet twists, immediately a strong antagonist who can rival Anna not only in combat skills but also in charm.

It is precisely at this juncture that the film finds its extra gear, that is when it does not take itself too seriously and the tension between Anna and Rembrandt is transformed into open and brazen sexual tension, seasoned with a pinch of fun irony for a flirtation that can only lead to one of the funniest and most brutal action sequences since the days of the perhaps underrated Mr & Mrs Smith.

The problem is that the exotic beauty and strength of Maggie Q and the histrionic and insightful charm of a Michael Keaton, also protagonist of a couple of well-choreographed action sequences, do not are enough to fill the gaps in the screenplay signed by Richard Wenk (The Equalizer, Jack Reacher) who borrows various elements from different films of the more or less recent past to pack one that is just sufficient and that can be watched but which does not offer innovative ideas or characterizations of particular interest.

The Protégé is an almost old-school film as evidenced by the direction of a solid Martin Campbell but devoid of any creative flicker in terms of camera movements and shots, all inspired by the American classics of the genre, thus paying more duty to Lethal Weapon and Die Hard than to classic or more modern Hong Kong cinema which instead set the new standard. It goes better with photography thanks to a Vietnam that is less humid and wild and more urban and bathed in neon lights, an exotic setting treated in an exotic way.

Ultimately The Protégé is an excellent film to pass a " undemanding cinema evening "perhaps in the company of some friend / lover of the action genre because the casual viewer is unlikely to find a reason for interest in the film.

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