FlixChatter Review: THE PROTÉGÉ (2021)

Is it just me or every action flick these days always want to be associated with John Wick. Granted it’s a lucrative franchise but really, the secret ingredient for its success is Keanu Reeves. So the same studio hopes they could launch another action franchise with yet another actor of Euro-Asian descent. Maggie Q, who Irish/Vietnamese was apparently discovered by legendary action star Jackie Chan when she was doing films in Hong Kong. I remember her from a few episodes of CW’s Nikita, but haven’t seen her in anything since, so it’s cool to see her finally get a feature leading role as Anna in The Protégé.

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The movie starts off with the protagonist Anna’s origin story back in Saigon on a grim, rainy night. Discovered by a legendary assassin named Moody (Samuel L. Jackson, natch!) as a young girl, he immediately adopted her and trained her to be a contract killer. Director Martin Campbell didn’t waste time to let us know just how skilled and deadly Anna is while on a job in Bucharest, Romania. It’s definitely a cool intro introducing Maggie Q’s potent cred as an assassin. Cool as a cucumber, she has no qualms in killing people… in fact she seems to relish in it.

The fact that Campbell has directed two of my favorite Bond films, Goldeneye and Casino Royale, there’s a deliberate Bond-like vibe about the movie. There’s the exotic locations, stunning locations, and the fact that Anna is also based in London. It’s actually refreshing to see a bad-ass female heroine who isn’t morose or have a chip on her shoulder, she seems happy living her double life as a contract killer and rare bookstore owner. She’s shown quoting Edgar Allan Poe though there’s not a single scene of her actually reading a book, ahah. But really, who has time when you’ve got people to kill and vengeance to pull off.

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Let’s just say the first half hour of the film is really enjoyable and promising. I enjoyed the surprisingly sweet father/son dynamics between her and Sam Jackson, especially the moment she gave him a very expensive vintage electric guitar. Clearly being a contract killer is massively lucrative business, Moody’s palatial home looks like those owned by Bond villains! Then there’s the somewhat of a meet-cute with Michael Keaton‘s Rembrandt at her store. Now at this point, I was more amused by this flirty exchange despite the nearly 30-year age difference between the two actors. More on this later.

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You know the action trope of ‘you can’t escape the past,’ well that’s especially true for assassins. Anna finds Moody brutally killed one night, which leads her back to her home country to track down his killer. I have to say the main reason to see this movie is to see MaggieQ kick ass and she absolutely delivers on that front. She trades her long reddish hair with a sharp, jet black bob-cut that shows off her features and makes her look even cooler and meaner.

There are some genuinely thrilling action stunts inside a sleek skyscraper where she continually eludes her captors. She’s proven lethal even with just a piece of metal tray or twisted sheet as she is with a gun. I love when an actress playing a femme fatale looks believable that she can perform her own stunts, and she sure fights with style. 

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Unfortunately style is mostly what this movie has going for it. Campbell’s direction is uneven, the more thrilling bits are often held back by overuse of unnecessary flashbacks. Writer Richard Wenk‘s (The Equalizer, The Expendables) is laden with clichés and throwaway characters. In fact, one of the actors Ray Fearon, has a strong presence but not sure what the point of his character was and he’s gone before you even figure it out. The twisty plot is overly convoluted that it takes the fun out of the movie in the third act. I think there’s something intriguing here, but it’s not explained well at all. It doesn’t matters that the actual villain is so laughably weak he seems like an afterthought. What’s worse, they even made an initially intriguing character but make him rather pointless delivering some morality speech about choosing the path of evil. SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] Why make Moody come back to life (a la Nick Fury who only pretended to have been killed) if you’re going to have him die in a murder suicide?!! And what’s with THAT ending?? It’s frustrating to see all that build-up ultimately leads to a lame payback.

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As for the half-baked romance between Anna and Rembrandt, let’s just say it’s a hit and miss. I enjoyed watching the flirtatious banter in the restaurant which seems to be modeled after the Casino Royale‘s train scene between Bond and Vesper. Even the way Anna, in a heart-stopping red dress, leaves the room reminds me of when Vesper walked through the Casino with all the men drooling over her. The seductive vibe between them is fun initially, though I think it would have been much sexier (and less cringe-worthy) had the filmmakers kept the sexual tension brimming but left it at that. As much as I enjoy seeing Keaton in a movie, I feel like he’s strangely miscast here as an action AND romantic lead. On the way home my husband and I thought perhaps someone like Pierce Brosnan would’ve been a better fit and kinda fun to see him as a sort of Bond baddie. But hey, at least they gave Keaton quite a bit to do here in terms of action, compared to Robert Patrick who’s completely wasted here. 

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Despite its shortcomings and there are plenty, I still think it’s worth a look for all the MaggieQ’s action scenes alone. It’s as if Campbell was making his vision of a female Bond, a powerful killing machine with equal style and sex appeal. Except she wouldn’t need Q as she’s already born with it (sorry I can’t help it!!) In any case, based on her commanding presence and phenomenal action work, I hope we get to see more of her in the leading role, but hopefully with a more compelling narrative well worth her (and our) time.

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Have you seen The Protégé? I’d love to hear what you think!

Indie Review: I, ANNA starring Charlotte Rampling & Gabriel Byrne

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I must say that the main draw for me to this film is are the pairing of Charlotte Rampling and Gabriel Byrne. As it turns out, the casting remains to be the strongest thing about this film from newbie director Barnaby Southcombe, who happens to be Rampling’s own son.

The film opens with the protagonist Anna, a beautiful but lonely divorcee living with her daughter and granddaughter, on yet another singles night event. There’s a humorous exchange in the ladies room between Anna and an older lady who happens to be Honor Blackman (a.k.a. Bond’s Pussy Galore!) We later learn that her daughter has been encouraging her to get out there and meet someone new. The two seems to have a friendly relationship but at the same time there’s a certain distance I can’t put my finger on, but then again, Anna is such a mysterious figure and continues to be as the film progressed.

Her story is interwoven with a pending murder case, which is where Detective Bernie Reid (Byrne) comes in. Reid is an insomniac dealing with his own relationship problems, in fact he’s living in a hotel since his marital separation. So when the two lost souls meet, it seems inevitable that they’d somehow connect later on. They meet by chance, in the elevator of the building where the murder case happens, and for a while, it seems nothing more than a coincidence. Or is it?

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As a slow-burn mystery, the film does work in keeping us in suspense, or at least in a state of curiosity, as the truth of what’s happening is slowly revealed in a series of hazy vignettes. At times the film plays like a procedural TV episode with the cops getting a lead on the suspects, etc. though the notion that ‘things are not what it seems’ plays out in a rather predictable way.

As I said before, the strength of this film is in the performances. Rampling and Byrne both brought their A-game to this film. Byrne is appropriately grizzled as a jaded detective who’s clearly smitten by this mysterious woman. It’s always a delight to watch the talented Irish thespian on screen, though this isn’t his best role by any stretch. The star of the film is definitely Rampling—who was 66 when she made this film. She still looks perfectly believable as a femme fatale, her steely gaze and seductive smile are contrasted by a palpable vulnerability. She carries the role with absolute conviction right down to the emotional finale. Though I never quite warmed up to Anna, she was certainly captivating to watch. Hayley Atwell is completely wasted as Rampling’s daughter, however. It’s a shame that she wasn’t given hardly anything to do here, and neither was Eddie Marsan as another detective working on the case.

Sometimes a certain expectations can greatly affect how we feel about a film and this is one of those occasions. The plot synopsis that reads like this “A noir thriller told from the point of view of a femme fatale, who falls for the detective in charge of a murder case.” Boy, that just sounds so juicy, and yes the film seems to have the elements of a noir, right down to the classic trench coat of the protagonist. I also appreciate the fact that a mature woman, and not just some pretty young thing, is at the center of the story. Alas, the idea of this film ends up being far more riveting than the film itself.

Though I didn’t know that this was Southcombe’s feature film debut, I kind of sense that from the way this film was directed. The pacing was much too slow for my liking and whilst the atmospheric cinematography style was intriguing at first, I felt like it was overdone, perhaps to cover up its thin plot. I suppose it’s still worth a watch if you’re a fan of the noir genre, I just wish it could’ve been a lot more compelling given the cast involved.


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Have you seen this one yet? Well, what did you think?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Danny Boyle’s TRANCE & Advanced Screening Giveaway

James McAvoy is a bit on an action roll these days. He’s starring in two British crime thrillers out in the same month in the UK. One is Welcome to the Punch, and the other is TRANCE, directed by Danny Boyle. This is Boyle’s first film since the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours in 2010. As you know, he was busy directing the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony last year.

If you live in the Twin Cities area, register below to get your advanced screening tickets!

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An art auctioneer, who has become mixed up with a group of criminals, partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.


ADVANCE SCREENING TICKETS for Twin Cities Moviegoers!

Advance screening on:
Wednesday, April 10 – 7:30pm @ Landmark Lagoon Cinema

Download a pair of screening tickets on gofobo.com

Seats are first come, first served and the theater is overbooked to ensure a full house – so arrive early!


Boyle worked with Glasgow-born screenwriter John Hodge once again, their fifth collaboration after Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach (interestingly, three of them starred Ewan McGregor). This time, Boyle chose another talented Scot, with Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson as McAvoy’s co-star.

Check out the trailer:

Looks like a pretty bloody crime noir judging from the trailer! McAvoy is quoted by DigitalSpy.com about the torture scenes “[It did affect me] a little bit. The torture stuff got to me, actually. It never usually does… I’m usually fine with all that stuff, and love being covered in blood and having my face bashed in, but I felt quite bad about myself for a couple of days on this one.” He added: “It starts as an art heist like ‘Thomas Crown Affair,’ but it’s not really about that. It’s noir-ish at times. There’s an essential idea of crime, but it’s not really about money.”

Thompson on Hollywood also noted that this marks the first time Boyle’s put a woman at the center of one of his movies, which the director himself admitted that they tend to be “boyish.” The article says he likes the film noir femme fatale premise: “Wouldn’t it be scary if a woman behaved even worse than the men?”

Hmmm, I’m certainly intrigued, especially with the talents involved! I just hope it won’t be too violent as much of Boyle’s movies tend to be.

TRANCE opens in limited release in the US on April 5 (Minneapolis release date is April 12).


Well, what are your thoughts on this film? Will you be seeing it?