I think we’re witnessing a new sort of action movie genre being birthed before our eyes. Not so much with storytelling methods or tropes, but in the way that action is shot and choreographed. I say this because “The Protégé” seems to be from the outset within the ballpark of the uber-popular “John Wick” franchise, as it makes quite a big deal in the promotional material. Does it deserve to even be mentioned in the same breath as the Wick movies? In many ways, I’d say yes, for better or for worse.
Our titular protégé, Anna Dutton (Maggie Q), is a contract killer working with her adoptive father Moody (Samuel L. Jackson), who rescued her from a bind in Da Nang in 1991. Since then, they’ve been traveling, killing and making a killing — until Moody is killed in a raid for a job he did thirty years ago, or so Anna is led to believe. Along the way, Anna squares off with the mysterious Michael Rembrandt (Michael Keaton) and his cronies, among them the formidable Duquet (Ray Fearon). Rembrandt’s job? Keep safe the secrets of Moody’s killers. Anna’s? To bring them to light, and then snuff it out.
There’s a certain amount of difficulty in telling somebody to see these kinds of movies. That is, I think, because most people are not really yearning for another movie with excellent action. Especially in this case, since it’s basically ripping elements from the “John Wick” movies almost unabashedly. Not just in the case of the action sequences, but also in some of the storytelling elements, or lack thereof. Part of this is why I title this story the way that I do, because these movies live and die by the rule of cool. The events going on in the movie are cool enough to suspend your disbelief just enough to keep the audience along. Does it succeed? I’d say so, but just barely. A lot of the weight of this rule of cool lies in the triumvirate of Maggie Q, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson. The script is pretty barebones, the plot is lacking to be generous and the cinematography outside of the fight scenes is pretty vanilla. That being said, the action scenes are easily in the upper echelon for films of the day, so the fact that we’ve got a pretty boring movie between those is a bit of a blessing and a curse. Blessing in that they carry the weight of this film on top of the natural charisma of our three stars, but a curse in the way that when we are away from the action, we’re just waiting for it to start up again, which is no way to be watching a movie.
All in all, I think Maggie Q deserves a better action vehicle, but in the meantime, this will satisfy any sort of bloodlust any prospective audience might have. It is a slave to its mediocre writing and subpar acting outside of the big three, but I can’t say in good conscience that the action does not more that fit the bill. If you’re willing to wade through a bit of wooden dialogue, the sleek action and quick pace will be more than enough to suffice.