The Protege: Keaton steals the show in director Kiwi’s return to action on Amazon

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Le Protégé (R16, 109mins) Directed by Martin Campbell *** ½

He’s the Kiwi responsible for two of the best Bond films of the past 30 years.

Hastings-born Martin Campbell has helped reinvigorate the declining franchise on two occasions, with opening salvos from Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig Golden eye and Casino Royale successfully bringing back the swagger and the grain respectively – just when they were needed most.

But among an impressive resume that also includes two Zorros and a duo of memorable 1980s British mini-series in Reilly Ace of Spies and The dark ages, there were also some hiccups (DC disaster The Green Lantern, sleazy tale of Kiwi-shot mountaineering Vertical limit and Angelina Jolie with borefest Across borders).

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However, after a period of drought that saw him direct only one feature film (2017’s Jackie Chan-starrer The foreigner) in the decade that followed LanternCampbell is back in full force – sort of.

The protected is a jaw-dropping, action-packed, perfectly tailored adventure that actually looks like two different movies that aren’t perfectly put together. At the same time, part of the current seemingly endless wave of John wick-esque revenge movies, it also gives off a 90s throwback vibe, as its intergenerational The professional vanity intertwines with a game of cat and mouse that evokes memories of Brosnan-Russo Thomas Crown case remake or the squeaky Zeta Jones-Connery coupling in Trapping.

What is certain is The protected Finally provides Polish-Irish-Vietnamese actress of Hawaiian descent Maggie Q Designated survivor, Nikita) with the feature film role his talents deserve. She’s proving to be more than adept at not only the inevitable physical demands, but also the seriousness and comedic timing to bring hitman Anna to life.

Michael Keaton plays the “complicated” Michael Rembrandt of the Protégé.

Provided

Michael Keaton plays the “complicated” Michael Rembrandt of the Protégé.

Saved from a destructive path at a very young age by the globetrotting assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson in one of his typical flying scenes and landscapes cameos), under his leadership, Vietnam-born Anna , develops the skills necessary for a successful career in “finding people not found”. A skilled cat owner and pastry chef, she also runs a London-based rare book shop, using acquisition trips as cover for her most nefarious operations.

But when Moody suggests that their last job is to return to Da Nang, she balks.

“Our past is never where we left it,” Moody assures him. “We all have scars. If you watch them long enough, you will remember how you got them.

These are the words that will haunt her when, a few months later, her world is shattered in a single night. Moody is shot and his beloved bookstore catches fire. That’s when she decides to fight against those who dare to hurt her and the man who not only “saved her life, but gave her a life”.

In The Protege, Maggie Q proves that it's not just physical things that she can be good at.

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In The Protege, Maggie Q proves that it’s not just physical things that she can be good at.

Cue plenty of ruthlessly effective killings, as Anna inevitably makes her way down the villain’s food chain. But while Campbell captures the frenetic, kinetic action well and Richard Wenk’s script (Denzel Washington’s Equalizer movies and Magnificent 7 remake) tries in vain to inject fresh ideas into a fairly predictable premise, it is the arrival of a man who makes sparks The protected in life.

At first, Michael Keaton’s Michael Rembrandt appears to be just a stunt cameo, a dilettante client trying to buy a birthday present for his wife (“Books aren’t like steaks, they don’t come on time. Anna barks, after asking she suggests something a little cheaper than her first bet).

But we all know he has a bigger role to play – and it proves it, because he completely transforms the film and the character of Q thanks to his witty good words, sharp asides, and the thrill they get. generate between them. It’s ridiculously implausible – and yet, it makes the viewing compelling.

Whether it’s comparing bone broth recipes, complimenting a henchman on his costumes, or leading a hubbub in the kitchen using any gear at hand, you never really know. what Keaton’s Rembrandt is going to do next, but you can’t wait to see it.

Samuel L. Jackson plays the teacher of Maggie Q's protégé.

Provided

Samuel L. Jackson plays the teacher of Maggie Q’s protégé.

Often times such a performance could destabilize a movie, undermine the lead, but here it seems to push Q to greater heights.

She fights and jokes with as much ferocity as she does flame, even though Anna is the “woman walking on a pool of sharks in strong winds” that Rembrandt endearingly describes.

Add in a perfectly quirky and complete soundtrack that includes choice tracks from Isaac Hayes, Nina Simone, and David Marks, and the result is a wild ride that’s eerily both memorable and instantly forgettable.

The protected is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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