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Review: 'The Protégé' (2021) Dir. Martin Campbell

Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Patrick, Patrick Malahide, David Rintoul, Ray Fearon and Ori Pfeffer


If you combine the direction of a James Bond veteran with leads including Batman, Nick Fury and Nikita, you know you're going to get something exciting and well played out...

City socialite Grace Gordon (Friel) returns to her small hometown in Southern America following the death of her father. Upon arriving, she discovers her family finances have all but gone due to funding Grace's city lifestyle.

In a world where the working man earns the most with more opportunity for career progression, Grace takes it upon herself to find a worthy bachelor and marry into stability and security, as hard as it may be for her to do so.

With the help of a charming Congressman (Grammer) and house helpers Mattie (DuPois) and Jubilee (Dyer), Grace sets out to challenge the barriers preventing woman being seen and treated as equal, earning a new lease of life for herself as she does...

Maggie Q as Anna Dutton is a machine. Not literally, but you'd think she is one. Thundering across Vietnamese city streets, buildings and dangerous rooftops in her quest for vengeance, Anna takes down as many bad guys than most male action heroes, is beaten, runover by two cars at the same time, water tortured and shot. All in the first hour. Trained by mentor Samuel L Jackson to best to be the best, Anna is an assassin for hire, cleaning up the wrong-doings and enforcing some kind of justice in the world. Q is a strong female action lead, and deserves more time in feature films due to her no nonsense portrayals - she is captivating to watch as both an actress and action star, like someone ripped from a video game who is more than capable of staying alive in a dangerous world, being both investigative and lethal. She's a stunning lead; beautiful and deadly in equal measure.

In an industry that can be deceptive in marketing of lead stars (looking at you, Bruce Willis), it's refreshing and wonderful to know that Michael Keaton and Jackson play big roles in this, rather than just a blink and you'll miss them cameos. Jackson gives his usual badass but loveable performance as Q's mentor, also playing to his age and not doing anything less than what we would expect in both 90s flashbacks and the modern day narrative. Keaton is in his prime, adding a real sinister, tongue-in-cheek edge as our good guy / bad guy (which one?) Rembrandt, channelling the style of grounded, simmering and natural acting that has continued to make him a fan favourite through his career, especially of late. He also gets stuck into some great action sequences with hardly a stunt-double in sight! The screentime both Jackson and Keaton share with Q are a real highlight for their love / hate relationships.

The plot may be one we've seen before, but with such a capable and experienced cast and crew in charge, the ride is wild, exciting and nothing but entertaining.

Support comes in the capable hands of Robert Patrick as covert ops (and biker) Billy Boy, Ray Fearon as easy to hate bad guy Duquet and David Rintoul as the nefarious crux of the story, Edward Hayes.

Veteran action director Martin Campbell who gave us explosive James Bond films GoldenEye and Casino Royale and also thrilling films across the decades such as The Mask of Zorro and The Foreigner is in his comfort zone here - fusing simple thriller with intense action for maximum entertainment. You've got shady conspiracies, deadly hitmen, shady figures in high-power and killers wearing dinner jackets. Campbell knows his craft, and knows when to give us all out action and fighting, and when to pull back and give us tense moments and sequences.

An example of this is Q infiltrating a well guarded banquet hosted by the man pulling the strings, and with an underlying score from Rupert Parkes, it's a great sequence and mix of genres.

There are also some great shots in this for the action - the editing is paced well and nothing is too fast and frantic that you miss what's going on. Mirrors, shadows and lights are used to highlight the cat-and-mouse themes of predator and prey between Q, Jackson and Keaton, using brains over bullets most of the time as we head to a climax you probably didn't see coming thanks to the play on character relationships and who or who may not be the real bad guys.

A top tier cast who deliver under the direction of a James Bond veteran lead to a well executed and action-packed thriller, delivering just what you expect from them.

'The Protégé' is a co-production between Millennium Media, Fourteen Films, I Road Productions, Campbell Grobman Films and Ingenious Media

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