Martin Campbell’s action thriller, The Protege, showcases some of the best action sequences of 2021. Though, the excessive stamina, jumps, thrills, and stunts fail to deliver a promising story. The flaw has now become a curse for an action genre where someone or the other may randomly tell you, “Action films don’t have a story, or don’t need it.”
With a little bit of storytelling at its disposal, The Protege thematically visits the past of its two titular characters, Anna Dutton (Maggie Q) and Moody Dutton (Samuel L. Jackson). While the Dutton’s are the best-paid assassins you may get in Protege’s universe, it is the anti-force Michael Rembrandt (Michael Keaton) who steals the show. Well, an actor is always an actor.
‘The Protege’ Plot Summary
Moody Dutton (Samuel L. Jackson) is an ace assassin who takes up high-profile contracts from all around the globe. During the 1991 massacre in Da Nang, Moody visits Vietnam to finish an assignment. To his luck and astonishment, he finds out that a young girl, Young Anna (Eva Nguyen Thorsen), has already finished his job. Charmed by her skills, Moody takes Anna under his wings and travels back to England.
31 Years Later, a grown-up, Anna (Maggie Q), abducts Don Preda’s son, Vali, in Bucharest, Romania, and demands a ransom. Later, Anna meets Don Preda, aka Butcher of Bucharest, Killer of Men, and informs him that she orchestrated the plan not for money but for Don Preda. Anna mercilessly kills Preda, and the duo, Moody and Anna, receive their bounty from the client.
Anna and Moody have settled in London, where Anna runs an elegant bookstore at the street corner. While ailing and coughing, Moody rests in his safe house (for now). Anna visits Moody on his 70th birthday, and out of the blue, Moody asks Anna to find Lucas Hayes. Moody had Lucas’ location until 1998, Paris, after which he suddenly disappeared.
As Anna investigates the mystery of Lucas Hayes, an unknown band of assassins kills Moody, Anna’s techno informer Billy and Moody’s caretaker, Claudia. Everything related to Lucas Hayes traces back to Anna’s homeland, Vietnam. Thus, to get her definite answers, Anna lands in Da Nang.
The Mystery of Lucas Hayes
Through Billy’s intel reports, Anna found out Lucas Hayes was the son of Edward Hayes. Edward was a businessman indicted for war crimes who was killed in a car explosion in Da Nang. In one media coverage, Anna saw Moody standing in the crowd near the crime scene and speculated that Moody would have bombed Edward’s car.
After his father’s murder on Christmas day, 1991, Lucas stayed in Paris until 1998 but returned to Da Nang in March 1999. He was admitted to St Quiteria Hospital on June 2nd, 1999, after which there was no record of his existence.
To find the missing links, Anna visited Edward’s business partner and Co-CEO, Jossino Vohl. Vohl’s personal attorney Duquet shot Vohl without a blink and captured Anna at the company’s building. In captivity, Anna learned that charming man, Michael Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), who visited Anna in her London bookshop, was also a part of the syndicate. Their gang was killing anyone and everyone investigating Lucas Hayes.
After a bit of an “action” struggle, Anna fled from captivity and ended up at Lucas’ last known location, St Quiteria Hospital. The nun at the hospital showed the wrong person, and Anna faced another dead end. Now, only one person could give satisfactory answers to Anna’s curiosity, Edward Arthur Hayes.
‘The Protege’ Ending Explained
Before the ultimate climax sequence, Anna discovered that both Moody and Edward were alive. Moody tricked Edward’s hired assassin, just like Edward tricked Moody in 1991.
Moody and Anna infiltrated Edward’s stronghold on a secluded island and planned to kill him during his extravagant charity event. Anna, dressed up as a waitress, pointed her gun at Edward, but minutes before the click, Rembrandt stopped Anna.
Meanwhile, Anna and Rembrandt put up a fight, Edward was escorted to his “panic bunker” to save his life. To Edward’s worst luck, Moody was waiting for him there with a ticking bomb in his bag. Before his death, Edward confessed that he faked his death to protect his beloved son, Lucas, from his enemies’ threats or harm. Moody sarcastically laughed at Edward’s emotional plea and underlined that Edward did all to save himself. The fake death was Edward’s chance to disappear as no one looks for a dead man. Through the years, Edward ran his crime syndicate from the secluded island.
In the end, Moody also conveyed his addictive voyage to find Lucas. Moody felt remorseful for taking away a father from a son, and thus he wanted to amend his mistakes. How could he have known that the web of affairs of rich criminals is beyond anyone’s understanding? When the confessions were done and dealt with, Moody torched the bunker with a bomb. He killed himself along with Edward.
Facing the Past
The pursuit of Edward Hayes was Moody’s journey, and it didn’t hold enough closure for Anna’s character. For Anna, her past kept haunting her, and facing it would only bring full closure.
A bleeding Anna left the island and visited the location in Da Nang, where Moody found her. She sent the location coordinates to Rembrandt to finish the last chapter of the story.
At the beginning of the film, Anna had shown the disconcert to remember her haunting past. Maybe, she didn’t remember it or didn’t want to remember it, and thus she didn’t want to visit Vietnam as the lands would have revived her memory.
“We all have scars. You stare at them long enough. You remember how you get them.”Moody
Sitting in the darkroom, Anna remembered how Vietnamese militants killed her American father, her mother, and her siblings. Later, the leader captured Anna and took her to their den. He assembled two of the one guns in front of Anna and decided to sleep with young Anna. Anna had an exceptional talent since childhood and had learned the technique of assembling guns by just observing. As the militant arrived to assault Anna, she pointed a gun at him and killed the three militants inside the den. Moments later, she was found by Moody, who came to finish the militants. It was the horrific memory Anna had been hiding all along.
Rembrandt reached the militant’s den and requested Anna to drop the gun and reconcile their relationship. But Anna yearned for closure and peaceful life. She wouldn’t have been able to live it until Rembrandt’ was alive, as he knew too much about her. In a mysteriously designed sequence, shot from outside the building, Anna killed Rembrandt and walked out of the door.
The Protege is a 2021 Action Thriller film directed by Martin Campbell. It stars Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton in prominent roles.