2021, R, 109 min. Directed by Martin Campbell. Starring Michael Keaton, Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Patrick.
REVIEWED By Cody Song, Fri., Aug. 27, 2021
There’s a popular internet trend (alright, fine, a popular TikTok trend) happening right now called “POV: I’m a woman written by a man.” A woman sits in front of the camera, participating in everyday activities, comically romanticizing her actions as though she were a female character written for the male gaze. She bites her pencil as she gazes at her computer screen; she giggles coyly by herself while making a plate of eggs; she sits on the counter stroking her long legs as she thumbs idly at the pages of a book. The goal of these vignettes is not to do, but to be seen. In The Protégé, Maggie Q’s character Anna very much falls into this tired trope of being an obvious creation of a man.
The Protégé puts Anna on a path of vengeance for the assassination of her mentor and father figure, Moody (Jackson), who rescued her as a child and raised her to follow in his footsteps as a contracted killer. As her plot begins to unravel, she becomes entangled with Rembrandt (Keaton), who works for the man that Anna seeks revenge upon but still cannot fight his attraction to her. As a result, the movie is full of double entendres, both subtle and not-so-subtle.
It’s difficult to find the film’s target audience. Is the almost nauseating amount of blood, gunshots, and terrible beheading prosthetics meant to attract the crowd that will devour action pictures without looking up to notice the title? Or is the picturesque establishing sequence of Q opening the doors of the rare bookshop she owns in central London while cuddling her cat (who, I lament, we never hear a meow from for the rest of the movie) meant to attract the kind of people who languish in fantasies about that very lifestyle?
The Protégé suffers from its predictability and lack of nuance. Despite a somewhat promising if well-worn plot, the characters and performances can’t seem to catch up. Clearly, the wardrobe department spent more time finding outfits that would perfectly suffocate Q as she’s waterboarded by her enemies than writer Richard Wenk did in thoughtfully fleshing out her character. If the extreme violence against women doesn’t turn your stomach, never fear – the dialogue will do just the trick.