New movie The Protege stars Maggie Q as the world’s most skilled contract killer. She was rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) and trained in the family business. But when Moody – the man who was like a father to her and taught her everything she needs to know about trust and survival – is brutally killed, Anna vows revenge. 

Maggie Q, known for her CW series Nikita and roles in the Divergent franchise, absolutely shines as the lead in The Protege. After starring in an action thriller about a kick-ass rogue secret agent on The CW, it’s no surprise that Q cultivated the ability to walk the line between incredible action star and deeply thoughtful ingenue. Although surrounded by star power, with names like Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton rounding out the cast. 

The Protege spends most of the hour and fifty minutes following Anna through her dangerous adventure shrouded in mystery. Q tackles the emotional arc of Anna with the same precision and detail as her combat sequences. She carries the entire movie – almost single handedly – with her ability to captivate the audience. Anna, like most trained assassins in movies, has a history of trauma. Q’s performance beautifully balances the strength and vulnerability of this character. Blending the pain, femininity, and intelligence – the epitome of a female action star written by a man; Q explores the layers of this character carefully without allowing Anna to become another archetype cliché. 

Familiarity But Also Quite Different

Moody felt like a reigned in version of previous Sam Jackson characters – a tame Nick Fury, a subdued and less vulgar side to his character in The Hitman’s Bodyguard series. It’s odd to watch such a beloved and iconic actor in a new role and not compare him to previous performances. But Moody was different, he’s more paternal and delightfully enigmatic. 

Aside from Maggie Q herself, all the high energy action was the true highlight of The Protege. It’s directed by Martin Campbell, who helmed a couple Bond flicks, The Legend of Zorro, and Green LanternThe Protege is packed with beautifully choreographed gun fights, hand-to-hand combat and car chases. They never skimp on opportunities to show off the actors (and stunt team’s) skills. With ambushes occurring in nearly every scene, fights with creative weaponry work resulted in fun and entertaining scene.

Michael Keaton’s fights were especially surprising; as this unarmed man pushing 70 took on handfuls of young, highly trained, and fully armed assassins. His role, Rembrandt, was clearly written for someone 20 years younger; made the action he dominated even more breathtaking to watch. Although out of place at times, his charm and playfulness made Rembrandt even more intriguing and ultimately deadly, but his witty banter and snappy comebacks were a refreshing reminder of Keaton’s comedic prowess.

The Protege Is Worth A Watch

With a clear and recognizable plot, The Protege isn’t groundbreaking or completely unexpected. It’s vibe is similar to Jason Statham’s The Mechanic (2011) – which makes complete sense as it was also written by Richard Wenk – and the twists in weren’t as surprising if you’ve seen films like Lucky Number Sleven (2006), but it did blend the fast paced shoot ‘em up genre with a mentor-mentee relationship, providing comparable elements of Leon:  The Professional (1994). Ultimately, The Protege is fun and action-packed, which is the kind of exciting escapism viewers need sometimes. 

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