‘The Protégé’ Review: Ladykiller

“The Protégé,” — a lady-assassin movie whose heroine is as indestructible as the genre clichés surrounding her — might profit from the unexpected presence of Michael Keaton, but not by much.

An ultraflexible Maggie Q plays Anna, rescued as a child from Vietnam by Moody (an underused Samuel L. Jackson) and trained to follow in his contract-killer footsteps. When it appears that Moody has been offed, Anna embarks on a vengeance spree that will unearth a seductive villain named Rembrandt (Keaton) and a ragtag biker gang led by Robert Patrick, who seems understandably uncertain of his character’s motivation.

The silliness in Richard Wenk’s script is epic. Anna is no everyday executioner, but a cat-loving, cupcake-making bookstore worker who knows her way around a first edition. She’s the kind of gal who can go from torture chamber to dinner table with nary a blemish, and she does, flirting with Rembrandt over the size and capabilities of their respective firearms. Who knew waterboarding could give you such a glow?

Plot credibility, of course, is the least important aspect of movies like this, which are all about attitude, lethal accessories and generic, smart-mouth dialogue. (When someone says, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” you know it will occur almost immediately.) Shot mainly in and around Bucharest, Romania, “The Protégé” has little to distinguish it except a director, Martin Campbell, with competent action chops and a penchant for pairing violence with make-out music.

Kudos to Q, though, for a performance anchored in classy disdain for the baloney around her. If there’s a sequel following her and Keaton’s characters in couples therapy, I might be forced to buy a ticket.

The Protégé
Rated R for risible romance and creative slaughtering. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. In theaters.

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