Who is ready for Martin Campbell to get back in the action movie saddle again? Campbell is the director of two of the best Bond films out there in the form of Goldeneye and Casino Royale. He also has some fun, solid outings like The Foreigner, Edge of Darkness, and The Mask of Zorro. When his name popped up during the trailer for The Protégé, I got plenty excited to see what he does with this story full of hired guns and revenge. Throw in a fun cast including Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton, there is some potential for this action flick.
Does The Protégé live up to that potential? In many ways it does. What is most important about a film like The Protégé? The action. Campbell certainly delivers in that department. Where films like John Wick and Atomic Blonde are going for tons of style, The Protégé is leaning into slick and well-crafted action. The action is visceral and intense with some fun flair along the way. There are a few beats that deliver some fun as well, including one scene where Maggie Q and Keaton have a fight filled with plenty of sexual tension. The violence is raw, and the blood and gore are never toned down along the way.
The Protégé seems to be swinging wild then, right? Campbell does struggle with the tone of the film. One moment that fleshes out Anna’s history (Q’s character) as we witness the death of her family. There is intense gore in this scene which feels too drastic in a film where there are scenes full of fun flirting. There is even plenty of waterboarding thrown in for good measure. Overall, this is a serious film and luckily the lighter scenes are well done. Besides the tonal issues, the story feels a bit convoluted as well. There are plenty of tropes and “twists” that we have seen before in films, so this doesn’t feel too fresh.
Top notch action…middling story…but what about the acting? Q makes for a quality lead in this film. Her physicality is believable as she kicks ass and looks the part. She does plenty of stunts and nails those acting expectations. Her lines are minimal but even then, she can bring some charisma to the role and hold her own. Then you have her mentor, Samuel L. Jackson, who is…well, Samuel L. Jackson. He does his things like it is no problem. Not that Jackson isn’t trying but he is coasting well on his charisma and screen presences alone. Then there is Keaton. He is one charismatic man. His character Rembrandt is a delight every moment he is on screen. His charm is undeniable even if he is not a “gentleman”. The spark between him and Q is enough to burn down a whole forest. This budding affair leads right up to an emotionally charged finale that is the real pay-off of the film.
Is Campbell’s The Protégé an action flick worth your time? Despite its uneven tone and convoluted plot, this film delivers the action goods. Campbell is a talented director who is back in the saddle where his strength is. The cast is fun and brings plenty of charisma to the proceedings. If you enjoy a good old action flick, this one is right for you.