‘The Protégé’ Movie Review: Maggie Q vs. Michael Keaton for the Hitman’s Body Heat

The Protégé is a solid action movie made by a high caliber team. If you like action-packed shoot ‘em ups witty banter along the way, The Protégé will make you happy. Maggie Q and Michael Keaton make screenwriter Richard Wenk’s words sing. And, director Martin Campbell crafts his best action scenes outside of James Bond

Maggie Q in action in The Protégé
Maggie Q | Simon Varsano/Lionsgate

Maggie Q IS ‘The Protégé’

In Da Nang, Vietnam in 1991, Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) rescues the lone survivor of a violent attack. 30 years later, Moody and Anna (Maggie Q) still work together. Just so you know how good Anna is for the rest of the movie, she takes out some generic Romanian gangsters. Someone’s got to. 

The Protégé Maggie Q and her mentor Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson and Maggie Q | Raul Jichici/Lionsgate

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In present day London, Anna’s cover is a rare book store. Michael Rembrandt (Keaton) comes in and flirts with Anna. Later, Anna’s team is hit and she goes after the killers. Rembrandt keeps popping up. The upper hand keeps shifting between them as Anna tries to find out who set up her team and Rembrandt tries to throw her off the trail. 

‘The Protégé’ is bloody good fun 

The Protégé earns its R-rating with action violence. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when most action movies were R-rated, the violence wasn’t usually this graphic. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t take much to turn them PG-13 with a few tweaks and cutaways. Now for an R-rated action movie to stand out, it has to emphasize the kill shots. 

Anna’s headshots spray blood across the screen. It’s not Rambo: Last Blood gory, but it’s way more graphic than a Bourne or Fast and Furious movie and maybe on par with The Suicide Squad. That’s part of the fun. These are killers, let them really kill people. 

Maggie Q points a gun in The Protégé
Maggie Q | Raul Jachici/Lionsgate

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But, if it was just gore, that would get old fast. Campbell, of course, can direct action. Every scene shows how innovative Anna is, using the environment and her nearby surroundings as weapons. That’s Jackie Chan’s specialty, and Campbell did a Jackie Chan movie, but years before that Chan had already influenced Campbell’s Mask of Zorro. When Anna and Rembrandt face off, they both have those skills so it’s extra fun. 

Mr. Keaton and Mrs. Q. 

The best part of The Protégé is the tete a tete between Anna and Rembrandt. Q and Keaton keep it flirty and vivacious. They’re like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, only they just met so this is their meet-cute, rather than hashing out years of relationship trouble. 

The Protégé Maggie Q meets Michael Keaton for dinner
Maggie Q and Michael Keaton | Raul Jichici/Lionsgate

The Protégé also gives Jackson gratuitous F-bombs like we like to hear. The role of a badass mentor suits the persona he’s cultivated without feeling forced into the narrative, as it may in some other movies. 

The hitman genre is tried and true, and The Protégé actually stands out for its simplicity. It doesn’t try to have an elaborate mythology behind Moody and Anna’s agency. That only works in John Wick and we’ve seen pale imitators suffer. So they’re just hitmen. That’s it, and it allows the action and chemistry between Keaton and Q to be the highlight.