Updated: Aug 21, 2021
The Protégé is the type of film that littered home video in the 1990s, albeit with a bigger budget. The film is B-movie cheese with enough style and attitude to hold your attention, even as the film leaps over plot holes and logic. Maggie Q is a master assassin who meets her match when she goes up against Michael Keaton. Make no mistake, Q is a joy here but the film will be remembered for Keaton. He devours every juicy line reading making for a fun if flawed ride.
Keaton unfortunately doesn't arrive until mid-way through the film. Until then, we follow Maggie Q as Anna, an orphan raised to be a ruthless killer by Moody Dutton (Samuel L. Jackson). He finds and saves her on a mission in Vietnam. She proves from the get-go to be a talented assassin. She is the type of character one never worries about as there is no killing her. The entertainment comes from watching her work. And work she does, Anna is after a big baddie who employs Rembrandt (Keaton). As she begins to kill many bad guys, he comes in to take her out.
Right from the moment the two meet, there are sparks. Sure, the pairing here is classic Hollywood masogeny as Keaton is 69 and Q is 42. However, the two actors genuinely have chemistry and their interactions are fun to watch. Their dynamic is deadly and we and they know that there is no bright future for them. One is going to kill the other.
Director Martin Cambell (Golden Eye and Casino Royale) knows how to stage an action scene. The Protégé has three excellent ones. The fight choreography is top notch. He also peppers the film with oddballs. Robert Patrick plays Billy Boy, the leader of a motorcycle gang. He is a hoot in the role.
The Protégé's plot makes almost no sense. There is a late reveal that feels particularly like a dare to follow the logic of it. However, if you put that aside one can have a lot of fun with the film. Keaton hasn't been this much fun in decades and it is great to see him shine.