The Protégé Delivers Action And Lots Of It

I love action movies, gun battles, outrageous stunts, the heroes who can survive everything. The ’90s were absolutely full of these, actors who made names for themselves with witty one-liners, and copious amounts of carnage. These are the summer blockbusters that people would flock to theaters for, not for the story, or even the characters, but for the over-the-top nonstop action from start to finish. In a way, the Protégé fits nicely into this mold, but unlike many of its predecessors, it breaks the mold in some unexpected ways.

The Protégé begins in Vietnam, where professional assassin-for-hire Moody Dutton (Samuel L. Jackson) comes across a scene where multiple Vietnamese thugs have been gunned down. He surveys the scene in an effort to uncover who could have performed such a feat, only to discover a young girl hiding in a wardrobe holding an empty smoking handgun. Thus, begins our journey with Moody Dutton and is protégé Anna Dutton (Maggie Q).

The years have been profitable for the father and daughter professional assassin duo who have become experts at finding those who don’t want to be found. Moody has just celebrated his 70th birthday and finds himself reminiscing on the past and the assassination of a young boy’s father. Suffering from an undisclosed illness that he is slowly dying from; he seeks to make amends with the boy and to apologize for orphaning him at such a young age. It’s this investigation into the boy and his deceased father that set a chain of events in motion that neither Moody nor Anna could have prepared for.

As action movies go, you will not be disappointed in The Protégé. Within the first few minutes, we are not only introduced to the main characters but a hail of gunfire and stunts that we would expect. The gunplay is outrageous, the means of dispatching opponents innovative, and there isn’t a moment of calm throughout its entire one hour and forty-nine minutes. There are some genuine eye-covering moments seeing enemies dispatched by guns, swords, and even a handy mobile phone blade. The movie isn’t an over-the-top gorefest but it’s certainly not lacking in blood and violence.

The characters shine in The Protégé and they lift the film above the standard ho-hum affair of most action movies. The Protégé never has any throwaway characters simply for the excuse to include more action. From the simple housekeeper to the numerous bodyguards, each and every one of them has a unique persona and drives the movie forward. The main characters are incredibly deep with more backstory than one would expect could fit in a movie of this length. Samuel L Jackson and Maggie Q are both outstanding in their roles. You can feel the true father and daughter love they share for one another and we are presented with numerous flashbacks throughout the movie on how this band had grown. This is not simply one of teacher/student, but a true love that can only be achieved in a parent/child relationship.

Michael Keaton who portrays hired assassin Rembrandt steals the film for me. He’s not a one-dimensional character whose only reason to exist is as the main protagonist in the film. No, there are multiple sides and motivations that drive everything he does. He’s charming, witty with his one-liners, and seems deeply conflicted. If there is such a thing as a likable villain, then Rembrandt fills that role incredibly well.

The Protégé also has a surprisingly interesting story, considering the genre it fills. With equal parts action, mystery, and dark comedy to keep it moving at a brisk pace. Not since movies such as True Lies back in the 90s have I heard so many people break out in laughter while guns are blazing, and punches are flying. None of the interactions feel forced or unnatural and it’s easy to get lost in how connected each of the characters is to one another. This was the most unexpected part of The Protégé for me, I was expecting a fun time, but wasn’t expecting the story to be more important than all the action that was going on around it.

At the end of the day, is The Protégé a completely perfect movie? No, it’s not entirely unpredictable and there are certain films that do bits and pieces of it better. However, each of its incredible pieces makes up a very satisfying and epic whole and a movie that both Action lovers and Murder Mystery junkies could both buy into. The Protégé is easily one of the best films of the year so far, and certainly THE best action movie of the year. With as little fanfare it’s received, and the minimal promotional material I’ve seen, it’s likely to be one of the 2021s hidden gems. While it’s hard to justify going to see just any movie during the pandemic if you are the sort who wants to see something on the big screen you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see The Protégé.

4.5 of out 5 stars