There are plenty of reasons why audiences will be intrigued by The Virtuoso.
Its title suggests that they’ll be dazzled by either the film itself, or at the very least, the talents of the stellar cast.
There’s Anthony Hopkins, fresh off his second Best Actor Academy Award win for The Father. He is joined by Bright Star and Candy actress Abbie Cornish, as well as seasoned character actors David Morse and Eddie Marsan, who immediately elevate anything they’re a part of with their grizzled features and mysterious presence.
But The Virtuoso wastes every single positive aspect it has at its disposal. Instead, the crime thriller unfolds in a tedious manner.
It doesn’t help that none of the aforementioned actors portray the lead character in The Virtuoso. That honour is saved for the uncharismatic Anson Mount.
It’s his character, an unnamed assassin, who is sent to a remote US town by his enigmatic boss (Hopkins). Once there, he is given a time, location, and a cryptic clue, which he must use to identify his next hit from among several possible targets.
The Virtuoso doesn’t get off to the worst start, though. There’s actually something rather fascinating about its opening scene. In it, we see Mount’s assassin skilfully murder his latest victim, all while meticulously narrating how much time he has to escape. It’s not necessarily nail-biting or illuminating, but co-writer and director Nick Stagliano hints at a stylishness, pace, and mood that might make The Virtuoso worthwhile.
Any excitement though is quickly eradicated over the next 20 minutes. This cold-open concludes with Mount uttering the name of the film in such a cheesy and ham-fisted fashion that you’ll immediately chortle with embarrassment.
After repeatedly insisting that he’s such a talented marksman he should be called The Virtuoso, Mount botches his next assassination so awfully that an innocent mother is set ablaze right in front of her child. Hopkins then sends Mount off on the main mission. Even then, for every impressive kill he does, the gunman makes a mistake that seems decidedly amateur.
Although Mount looks the part – handsome, statuesque, and menacing – he's not to blame for all the film's failings. Stagliano and James C Wolf’s script is predictable that Mount is left looking hapless and lost.
The constant narration becomes tiresome, managing to suck the energy and tension out of every scene. Its relatively simple plot also tries so hard to keep its audience guessing that it either ties itself in knots or is so vague that you’re left with no other option than to be bored.
The deficiencies of the script are only matched by Stagliano’s abject direction. His uneven pacing makes The Virtuoso’s running time of one hour and 50 minutes feel twice as long. This is all the more infuriating since most viewers will have guessed its predictable ending way before the halfway mark.
The only time that The Virtuoso comes close to being engaging is when Cornish appears. The Australian is effortlessly charming as the waitress that Mount grows closer to. So much so that she’s even able to momentarily make his protagonist feel relatable and the film itself bearable.
'The Virtuoso' is out in the UAE on Thursday