Michael Keaton is way too good in ‘The Protege’ to be surrounded by such mediocrity. Sadly, the story here is lazy and riddled with too many moments where they don’t explain how characters ended up where they are or why. Little time is given to fleshing out the humanity of the characters. Which makes it hard to care much about them. And sometimes decisions are made that are just mind numbingly stupid. The best example of this being a scene where Anna (Maggie Q) runs into a car after expertly escaping a whole building of trained bodyguards. This scene made me burst out laughing and I’m sure I was not supposed to.
The plot here basically is just that of revenge. There is a brief set up to develop a friendship between Anna and Moody (Samuel L. Jackson). Plus, give Anna a little backstory. Then it’s off to the races. Which works just fine. There’s not a lot of care you have for the characters early on, but you can see potential in them getting fleshed out. Then, that just doesn’t happen. There’s a lot of playful banter, action, and torture, but nothing pulls you in or even puts you on the edge of your seat. Although, some of the playful banter is clever.
The performances are mostly pretty weak here as well. Samuel L. Jackson phones in another performance that very much emulates the purpose of his character in so many other films. Hell, one of those movies just came out this year (I won’t tell you what happens, but you know). Maggie Q certainly shows off her action chops, but her character is mostly a blank void of emotion. Even when she is spouting hard ass dialogue, she just doesn’t feel very invested in who Anna is. Keaton is the only actor here that truly seems to be having a good time with his character. It helps that his character gets most of the best lines, but it wouldn’t work without Keaton delivering the combination of clever and kick ass.
It is certainly a breath of fresh air that major motion pictures are starting to put Asian characters in lead roles and it’s really cool that they put a female Asian character in the lead here (even if she’s not top billed). However, I can’t recommend going to risk getting sick with this coronavirus to see something that’s just not that good. There’s entertainment value here and it might be worth checking out on Netflix one day, but not worth going to the theater.
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