Martin Campbell is a director who I respect very much; helming two of the best 007 movies ever in “GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale,” and more recently reuniting with Pierce Brosnan and bringing Jackie Chan back in action with “The Foreigner,” Campbell has proven himself as a competent director of high quality action dramas. Both James Bond movies mentioned above have not only fantastically crafted action scenes but genuinely intriguing plots and well-written characters, and “The Foreigner” is no different. So, when I saw the below average trailer for “The Protégé” I was, at first, underwhelmed and unexcited – that is, until I saw the words “Directed by Martin Campbell.”
Once again, Martin Campbell proves that he can direct incredible action sequences that are always full of style and sometimes bursting with brutality; one specific fight ended with a particularly violent death involving a hammer and a receipt spike, and it’s scenes like that that remind me how good of an action filmmaker Campbell is. Maggie Q is a surprisingly good action heroine, holding her own in ways that are actually believable. Utilizing her environment to dispose of her opponents seems second nature to her, as does planning their demise before she even steps foot in the same same room as them; she’s a very clever protagonist, which made it easy to want to see her succeed. However, the major showstealer and most badass character in this movie was easily Michael Keaton – not only does he take part in some of the best action scenes in the movie, but his character is just so slick and suave that you won’t be able to help but root for him. He shares some amazing scenes with Maggie Q, and while their dialogue was, at times, pretty cringy, Michael always delivered his lines with the aurora of a snake oil salesman – that is, sly, devilish, and charming – which made even the worst written scenes a lot of fun to watch.
So yes, “The Protégé” has a few good action scenes in it. Yes, only a few. Unfortunately, while the action is well crafted and well shot, there isn’t nearly enough of it. This film goes through very long stretches of drought where you’ll be begging for an action scene to happen instead of watching characters talk from scene to scene to scene. This could’ve been forgiven if one of two things were at play to remedy this: 1) If the action we did get was memorable, but to be honest, it’s just not. Sure, the action isn’t bad by any means, but the scenes are so short and so few and far between that by the time the next set piece comes along you’ll have already forgotten what happened in the last one. 2) If the dialogue was especially well-written (as we’ve covered above, it’s not) or if the plot was especially unique. And unfortunately, it isn’t.
“The Protégé” has an, at first, pretty straightforward plot – someone who Anna (Maggie Q) knows has been killed, and she wants revenge. Sounds simple enough, right? I thought so too. That is, until the movie starts dropping character names, past events, and seemingly unrelated plot elements with the speed and ferocity of parents passing out candy on Halloween night. I’m by no means dumb (that’s what I tell myself at least), but there was so much stuff and people being talked about in this film at all times that at some point I just gave up on trying to figure out who people were, what they were doing, and why they were doing it, and started watching this movie strictly for the action scenes. Truth be told, this is a pretty bare bones movie, with a bare bones story, so why all the needless convolution? Instead of making the best with what they had, it seems like the scriptwriters wanted to turn a simple revenge story into something smarter than it needed to be. And perhaps it could’ve worked, but it only succeeded in dumbing everything down.
This is by no means a bad film, but it is a forgettable one. It has a certain slickness and style to it that can be infectious to allow yourself to get pulled into. As I said, the action is legitimately good, and Michael Keaton alone is worth the price of admission. That said, don’t expect anything other than a serviceable diversion. As Jeremy Jahns says, you’ll forget this one in t-minus two hours.
Review by darkreignn