A B-series thriller from a leading action director

A play on genre tropes and a focus on the character bring to life the playful and satisfying action of Maggie Q., Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton.

As Hollywood takes more root in making IP-specific films and is now increasingly determined to hire potential writers, independent darlings and / or “exciting new voices” for their franchise films at Big budget, we’ve seen a small deluge of VOD or action movies barely released in theaters, directed by some of yesterday’s biggest talent and / or the most accomplished action directors. So we got things like China‘s volcano fusion film Sky fire by Simon West, by Noomi Rapace Unblocked by Michael Apted and a decade of barely theatrical (or VOD) action by Renny Harlin. Ironically, one of the few times a large studio gave a 1990’s vet a tent pole, you got the one from Jon Turteltaub. the mega, which was old school crowd pleaser that wowed audiences of all ages to the tune of $ 530 million worldwide.

Likewise, I’m still waiting for Stephen Summers, whose GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra basically played by the popular MCU playbook two years ago Thor and Captain America made this formula acceptable, to get another crack at, well, whatever. Odd thomas, released in 2013, that was a long time ago. It is therefore not insignificant that Martin Campbell, one of the finest “real-world action” filmmakers of our time, has remained above water for the past decade. He relaunched James Bond twice, with Golden eye in 1995 and Casino Royale in 2006, while giving us Zorro’s mask in 1998 and, uh, The Green Lantern in 2011. He hasn’t made a ton of movies in the last twelve years, and I’d say the Ryan Reynolds fire ten years ago is a major contributor.

Okay, so that was probably a mismatch between the director and the material, but A) the ‘down to earth’ character scenes and real world action are still pretty solid and B) the movie still plays out as a sloppy first draft copy for people like Steel man, Aquaman and Shazam. Although it has not been exceptionally busy since Casino Royale, by Mel Gibson The dark ages (a strong 2010 remake of Campbell’s 1987 BBC miniseries) The terrific film by Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan The foreigner (a 2017 China / Hollywood co-production starring vengeful plainclothes Chan causing chaos after the violent death of his daughter) allowed him to do what he does best on a theatrical level. Even under these less stringent standards, The protected looks like a “keep your feet wet” paycheck gig.

The protected is being sold as a “Maggie Q. Declares War on Michael Keaton to Avenge Murder of Samuel L. Jackson” movie, but it’s a little more complicated than that. The film opens with a 1991 prologue with Jackson finding a rescue of a young Vietnamese girl whose family has just been slaughtered by criminals. She has apparently already avenged her family’s death before hiding in the closet, so the agent decides to raise her as his own and teach her the tools of the trade. 30 years later, Anna and Moody form a team of highly skilled (and quite expensive) hitmen, even though they claim they only kill people who deserve it (despite the copious guards and security personnel) . Right off the bat, the mood is light and the joke is loud.

This is a rare film of a murderer of women who does not drown in despair, about his heroine trying to escape life and / or his “bad ass” protagonist protecting a child. Those two factors alone set it apart from almost any female assassin movie you can think of. Moody, on his last legs due to an unnamed illness (he has a “film death cough,” which is all you need to know), is introspective and remorseful, although some of his monologues about being a righteous assassin who only targets bad guys but knows he’s a villain too makes him the more introspective cousin of Darius Kincaid from The Hitman‘s Bodyguard. For reasons best explained by the film, the first act ends with Moody shot in his own tub.

Anna isn’t thrilled with this development, and the rest of the film is about her investigations into the who, what, and why of Moody’s death. While marketing sells Michael Keaton as the main antagonist, he’s actually a professional stuck in the middle of this chaos as a professional problem solver employed by the bad guys. Considering that Maggie Q. is gorgeous and Michael Keaton is still a stallion at 69 (nice), it’s no surprise that the two whimsical and mischievous mercenaries love each other. Rembrandt is more aggressive about the courtship than Anna, although Anna isn’t exactly dismayed by the advances. None of this is more than superficial, but the playful antagonism offers a welcome change of pace from the expected tropes of revenge and run-and-gun action.

We get a lot of violence, although it honestly feels a lot like a distraction or business obligation alongside the more character-specific scenes that seem to be where Campbell and the writer’s interests lie. Richard Wenk. The action we get is, as usual, polished, accomplished, rotated and edited for maximum clarity and fully aware of the grim consequences, but there’s also nothing to write home about. Q. has played in this sandbox several times before (six seasons on CW Nikita, for example). As such, The protected lacks the “Well, that’s different” sensibility to Jackie Chan’s R-rated political revenge in The foreigner or the “one last ride” fatalism of Mel Gibson in The dark ages. The biggest “difference” is that, again, it’s lighter, looser, and less naval than most photos of successful women / spies.

It is also useful The protected doesn’t treat its female protagonist like a #Girlboss statement, but simply tells a story where its main action hero happens to be a female. She bounces well off Jackson, and she has a real spark with Keaton (who has quite a few moments to flex her action chops and / or those of her stuntman), but it’s the three alone that provide 94% of the entertainment value of the film. The film runs out of steam in its third act when we realize that it has already left most of its cards on the table. The film’s finale barely tries to offer a conventional action-packed climax, and while I enjoyed the conversational emphasis on stunt work, the film’s endgame is a bit arbitrary and anti-stunt. -apogee.

Even though the final destination leaves a little to be desired, there is still a lot of polished dough to be found on the journey. The protected is an old-fashioned studio programmer who feeds on the power of the old-fashioned stars, a storyline just twisted enough, and the centerpieces of a man whose faces deserve to be sculpted alongside (casually) Cameron, Bay, Singleton, Bigelow, Verhoeven, Woo and McTiernan on the new-wave action film Mount Rushmore. Sure, a B movie directed by an A-level talent can sometimes (often?) Transcend its limits, but sometimes you just get a solid little B movie. It was probably a raffle to go primarily on VOD on the Lionsgate Premiere label, but you’ll get your money’s worth either from a $ 9 matinee or a $ 6 rental.

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