It has stars, guns, fights, and drinks, but where’s the story?
Maggie Q plays a contract killer so professional, that when she turns on the fire sprinklers, she leaves a piece of electrical wire in the flood to shock gunmen. That’s one of the things we’re seeing in “The Protege,” the latest entry from director Martin Campbell (“The Mask of Zorro,” “Goldeneye,” “Casino Royale”), which has a lot of moments, but never really seems to deliver. It’s one of those routine action thrillers that has you entertained by some of its implausibilities, but makes no sense.
I wanted to like “The Protege,” because I admire Martin Campbell, Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson, and I was excited by chunks of it, but I was also disillusioned by its narrative (written by Richard Wenk).
The main heroine Q plays is named Anna, who was rescued as a child by the assassin Moody (Jackson) in Vietnam, and kicks ass in the family business in London. Seeing him as the father she never had, she worries about his well-being, as he’s been coughing a lot. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because he gets brutally murdered (the gun shot looks ridiculous), but leaves her his flash drive just in time.
She also runs the local book shop where a stranger by the name of Michael Rembrandt (Keaton) comes in to buy a book and get her phone number, and where she survives an attack from gunmen.
This flash drive holds info about a man named Edward Hayes, who died in an attack in Vietnam, and his son Lucas went missing. Despite her wanting to runaway from her haunted past, she must return there to find out more about this boy and why Moody was murdered. That’s when she finds out who Rembrandt really is.
He locks her in his torture room, but is intrigued by how she handles things. In fact, when they go out for drinks, they point guns at each other under their table. It looks stylish the way Campbell directs that scene. And it’s also funny when these two fight in a dead guy’s home, and start to have a thing for each other. Rembrandt says: “Kill me or F me.” And then, it’s back to fights and bantering. Just give the girl flowers already or pull the trigger on the man.
At this point, her only contact is the leader of an American motorcycle gang (Robert Patrick), who arranges one of her meetings and gives her a piece of advice. Although I’m not too sure why there would be an American motorcycle gang in Vietnam. Maybe they have better angles outside the country, I don’t know.
Q, Keaton, and Jackson are the right actors to portray these killers, because they’re charming, stylish, and sometimes funny. Campbell usually knows how to guide professionals in the leads. Usually, because even he has directed bombs like “Green Lantern.” But this time, he didn’t get get the right material from the writer of “The Protege.” All he has are stunts, fights, guns, and explosions. They’re ridiculous, and I found myself rolling with its choice of sequences, but why did the story have to be twisted? Why did the characters have to choose which directions to lead in? It has so much potential; it just (pow) blows it away.