The Protege had all the elements to be a hugely entertaining assassin, action thriller.
In it, Maggie Q stars as Anna, who, after being rescued by a legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L Jackson) as a child, is turned into the world’s most skilled contract killer. But after Moody is brutally murdered, Anna returns to her home country of Vietnam to find out who assassinated him and get revenge.
Along the way she becomes entangled with Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), another killer for hire, while she struggles to come to terms with the life that she left behind.
Q is utterly captivating all the way throughout The Protege. Not only is she effortlessly cool, stylish and beautiful, she seamlessly turns into a cold-blooded killer in the blink of an eye.
After supporting roles in the likes of Mission: Impossible III, Live Free Or Die Hard and the Divergent series, The Protege proves without any shadow of a doubt that Q deserves to be leading action films herself. Not only does she thrive during all of the set pieces, bringing a skill and energy that invigorates The Protege, her chemistry with her two co-stars is delicious to behold.
Her laid-back demeanour is the perfect foil to Jackson’s outlandish persona, while her spark with Keaton becomes more and more intense and electric the longer The Protege goes on.
The problem is, the longer The Protege goes on, the more unbalanced and needlessly complicated it becomes. After originally starting off in the vein of John Wick and Taken, it then dovetails into a buddy comedy, before flirting with drama, romance, conspiracy and war genres.
Initially, this zigzagging from one genre to another makes The Protege rather riveting. Especially since it moves from locations in Vietnam, Bucharest, London and then back to Vietnam within quick succession. Ultimately, though, The Protege can’t maintain this breakneck pace. When it finally slows down, narrative cracks emerge and the film quickly disintegrates into a tedious mess.
Which makes it all the more surprising that the director behind The Protege is action stalwart Martin Campbell, the filmmaker who resurrected the James Bond franchise twice, with GoldenEye and Casino Royale. To be fair to Campbell, even though The Protege ultimately spirals out of control, he is clearly having a ball behind the camera.
The film is visually sleek and polished throughout, while he incorporates some genuinely surprising twists and turns into the narrative that will leave you with no idea where it is actually heading. There are also some killer action sequences that he shoots with both panache and humour, and he doesn’t hold back on the blood and violence.
All of which only makes it more disappointing that The Protege doesn’t come close to sticking its ending. Despite its obvious faults and underwhelming conclusion, there’s more than enough in it to keep audiences thoroughly entertained. Now we just have to wait and hope for Q to get the action career that she so clearly deserves.
'The Protege' is out in the UAE on Thursday