Movie Review: The Protege is a useful action movie elevated by its cast

New Zealand-born director Martin Campbell is no slouch when it comes to the action genre. Of course, there was the stumble that was the thorn in Ryan Reynolds’ side, The Green Lanternand Across bordersdespite proper work by Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen, was a boring misstep, but after reinvigorating the Bond films at times when they needed it most – he led Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s early forays into as long as 007 in golden eye and Casino Royalerespectively – is practically enough to give him a pass by watching Jhe protects.

While there’s nothing particularly original about the film, and at times it’s unclear exactly what kind of vibe it wants to engage in, it’s entirely a showcase for the captivating Maggie Q, a genre-capable actress who deserves so much more than this kind of material but owns it wholeheartedly anyway. Not only a physical threat but also showcasing her acting skills, her Anna is a skilled hitman who moonlights in a rather niche profession – here, she owns a vintage bookstore – that allows her to easily cover for long “business trips”.

Saved as a child by globetrotting assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson, enjoying her typical stage-stealing way), Vietnam-born Anna is taken under her wing, developing the skills she needs to survive a lifestyle that constantly puts her in danger. Even though Jackson and Q have fun bouncing off each other and expressing their on-screen skills in pleasantly violent settings, it’s the arrival of Michael Keatonis called Michael Rembrandt, an almost suspicious name, which really animates the debates.

From the moment Anna and Michael meet, the sexual tension is evident, and while we’re more than aware that he’s going to play an important part in his latest mission, we can’t help but be entirely sucked in by its bold charm; it’s entirely implausible that the two apparent professionals in their fields would allow the other to play with them in this way, but it does make for an appetizing viewing.

You never know what Keaton’s gonna do, and that’s what keeps The protectedThe standard action narrative is far more compelling than it should be. And while he could have easily stolen the movie from Q, Keaton’s presence only fuels her, unleashing a ferocity within that results in a slew of sexually-charged fight sequences that build on the scriptwriter. Richard Wenkwinking temper; the screenwriter openly accustomed to playing against the subtlety of the genre having written The equalizer and both Jack Reach and Consumables suites.

An action spectacle that knows exactly the limits it works with, somehow managing to be entirely engrossing for its 109 minutes, and then completely forgettable, The protected is a helpful example of a movie that knows best but commits to standard service with pleasant aplomb.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The protected is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Pierre Gray

Film critic with a fondness for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror films, harboring a desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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