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Firing blanks

Samuel L. Jackson’s glitzy assassin thriller The Protégé misses its target


Jichici Raul/Lionsgate

Firing blanks
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Director Martin Campbell has made some decent action movies. His latest, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Maggie Q, isn’t one of them. Despite moments of excellence, The Protégé never quite hits its mark.

Anna (Maggie Q) is the titular protégé adopted by Moody (Jackson), a legendary assassin. The two of them track down and kill people for money, but don’t worry—they only kill bad people “who have it coming.” I was reminded of Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven who reminds us “we’ve all got it coming,” but for now let’s let Moody and Anna pretend they’re the good guys. Moody’s past catches up to him when other assassins bump him off, and most of the movie recounts Anna’s quest for revenge. Along the way, she meets Rembrandt, played by Michael Keaton. He works for the bad guys, but he intrigues Anna.

The movie gets its R rating for violence, brief nudity, and excessively rough language. Of course, most of that foul language comes from Samuel L. Jackson. The movie also contains a scene of waterboarding.

The best parts of The Protégé are the action sequences. The violence is rawer than you would find in a typical PG-13 superhero movie, but it’s not gory. And even though Anna is pushed beyond what seems humanly possible, the fight scenes still manage to feel authentic. Campbell gets the action right, but the story isn’t strong enough to hold it together.

The movie might have been better if it hadn’t pretended to have any story at all. The narrative takes too long to let the audience understand what’s going on and why, and by the time we learn why Moody was killed, we’ve stopped caring. The mystery hinges on an O. Henry–style plot twist that leaves too many questions unanswered. Since the main narrative is so weak, the film attempts to create emotional depth with a contrived subplot about Anna facing her past that makes the 109-minute film feel about 50 percent longer.

But the worst part of the movie is the banter between Anna and Rembrandt. Meant to be witty and flirtatious, it instead just feels creepy.

The Protégé has the bang and the flash, but in the end, it’s just firing blanks.


Collin Garbarino

Collin is a correspondent and movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University graduate, and he teaches at Houston Baptist University. Collin resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.

@collingarbarino

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