Tag Archives: Martin Campbell

Teacher’s Pet

The Protege

by Hope Madden

For one of those hired assassin thrillers to work, it helps to have a convincing lead who has chemistry with the bad guy. Martin Campbell’s The Protégé delivers on both fronts.

And yes, in these films story often takes a backseat to fight choreography, writing rides shotgun to action. This also sounds a lot like Campbell’s latest, although it would be more forgivable if the action stood out enough that you could overlook the shortcomings in story.

Maggie Q is protégé assassin Anna, and while her inner conflict never breaks the surface, Q convinces as she moves bewigged from one set piece to the next. Anna’s mission this time is personal, natch, and her soft spot comes from her mentor, played by Samuel L. Jackson.

How is he? Well, he’s, you know, Sam Jackson. He’s exactly Sam Jackson. That works in almost every other movie, and it works just as well here.

But the real shining treasure in The Protégé is Michael Keaton. His talent, charisma, easy charm and natural good humor elevate every scene. Luckily, he’s in a lot of them, so he elevates most of the film.

Campbell (Casino Royale) stages capable though uninspired action sequences. His script, by action veteran Richard Wenk (The Equalizer), can’t tie character motivation to mystery elements to location or conflict. Instead, it stitches together ideas from a smattering of other films with little concern for coherence.

Perhaps this is why Campbell struggles so mightily with tone. This thing swings back and forth between buddy picture and revenge fantasy, international espionage thriller and romance. The bit that generally drives a film like this—you know, when the steely lead finally faces their demons—feels almost coincidental, leaving it no room to resonate.

The Protégé is not a terrible film. At worst it’s just a waste of your time.  

Stranger in Town

The Foreigner

by George Wolf

Martial arts legend Jackie Chan jumps back into the action genre feet first with The Foreigner, a film with more depth than you might expect.

Chan plays Quan, a restaurant owner in London who loses his daughter when a rogue faction of the IRA bombs a bank. Quan believes Irish Defense Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), who rose to power after a violent IRA past, knows the identity of the bombers. After his polite requests for information are rebuffed, Quan resurrects his own bloody roots to get those names by force and have his revenge.

Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) knows you’re ready for the latest take on Taken, but mixes some satisfying fight choreography with long stretches of political intrigue that might disappoint those looking for nothing but bad guy beatdowns. There’s nothing overly original here, but Chan provides just enough layers to be mysteriously sympathetic, Brosnan brings the seasoned gravitas, and The Foreigner keeps its head above some gaps in logic to remain interesting.