‘The Virtuoso’ Review: A Paid Killer, Hitting Bum Notes

The existential anxiety of the paid assassin is a tricky theme — so tricky as to be potentially invalid, even. “The Virtuoso,” directed by Nick Stagliano from a script by James C. Wolf, misses its shot in a spectacular, and sometimes spectacularly pretentious, fashion.

The very square-jawed Anson Mount plays the title character. In the opening scene, he shoots a woman, straight through the sternum it looks like, while she’s naked and straddling a man backwards. She has the presence of mind to climb off her partner so Mount’s “virtuoso” can plug that man through the forehead.

That’s the ostensible virtuoso’s best showing in the movie. Pompous second-person narration details the killer’s practices. He himself is frequently seen making faces in mirrors, as if to grow a personality. He gets orders from Anthony Hopkins — last weekend an Academy Award-winning actor, this weekend a monologue dispenser in a turgid piece of hackwork — that he proceeds to screw up time and again.

Hopkins dispatches our antihero to a rural town where he must figure out his target. One possibility: a diner waitress played by Abbie Cornish, who has as far as I know done nothing to deserve this movie.

It’s not just the title character who fails to thrive. The filmmaking is on occasion, to put it kindly, fractured. As the virtuoso begins a night raid, the voice-over explains he’s got to look out for dogs, which may be in the house he’s approaching. “On nights like this only the most cruel of owners leave their dogs out.” Nights like this? It’s not snowing, the virtuoso is wearing a pea coat — no gloves — and nobody is exhaling condensed breath. But OK.

The Virtuoso
Rated R for the usual paid-assassin movie stuff, plus nudity. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Google Play, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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