By Monique Jones,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Diverse but underwhelming assassin flick is very violent.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It takes perseverance to fight for justice for your loved ones.
Positive Role Models
Anna is an assassin; she and her father figure, Moody, follow a code, targeting people they feel deserve it. When Moody is attacked, Anna goes after those who harmed him, since he's her only family.
BIPOC actors play leading roles, giving more visibility to Asian and Black communities. But two Black characters are killed within first 30 minutes, bringing to mind "the Black guy dies first" movie cliché. One makes a surprise return, which somewhat redeems that stereotype. Offhand line about an Asian Russian being "something you don't [ever] see" could be seen as racially/culturally insensitive, since people from all backgrounds exist. Vietnam is showcased in a dark/negative light, partially because Anna suffered significant trauma in her home country. A deaf and blind character is briefly shown, but his characterization is based in stereotypes; a remark is made about how he's lucky to have lived into adulthood. This negates resilience and independence of disabled people, and their accomplishments.
Inclusion information: Black actors
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Violence & Scariness
Multiple fighting/shooting scenes, lots of blood and killing, including impaling/stabbing and a scene with a beheading. Children are shot. Lots of hand-to-hand fighting.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Scenes with partial and full-frontal nudity with breasts exposed. Scene showing characters after sex. Allusion to having sex in a hotel, sexual terms like "p---y," and an action scene with suggestive physicality, such as a character putting their legs around another character's waist.
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Words used include "p---y," "bitch," "f--k," "f--king," "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several scenes feature characters drinking beer, wine, and cocktails.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Protégé is an action thriller about an assassin (Maggie Q) on a mission to avenge her mentor (Samuel L. Jackson). It's very violent, with lots of killing (including stabbing/impaling and a beheading), blood, gunfire, and hand-to-hand combat. There's also sexual content (language, a scene of characters after sex, etc.) and some nudity, including bare breasts. Language includes "f--k," "p---y," "s--t," and more. Characters are shown drinking.
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What's the Story?
THE PROTÉGÉ follows Anna (Maggie Q), a woman who was raised by an assassin named Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) to follow in his footsteps as a hired killer. But when Moody is seemingly killed, Anna goes on a mission to get revenge. Along the way, she becomes romantically entangled with Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), another assassin working for Anna and Moody's enemy.
Is It Any Good?
This action film tries to bring something new to a genre that was already irrevocably changed (and challenged by) the John Wick franchise, but it falls short. To be fair, The Protégé isn't trying to be another John Wick. But it does feel like the filmmakers might have had high hopes of starting their own franchise centered on a kick-butt female action star. However, the storyline doesn't have enough staying power to fuel several films.
The film follows the usual cliché of an assassin out for revenge, with the most notable departure from the norm being that an Asian American woman and a Black man are the two lead characters. Having Q and Jackson in the main roles is a welcome change of pace and proof that Hollywood is at least trying to heed the call of being more diverse in its casting. But that alone can't save a film that has a weak story. Characterizations are simplistic and expected, and the reasons why people are out to get Moody are ill-defined. Keaton and Jackson do their best with their roles, and Q is entertaining enough in her action sequences. But if the story were stronger, Q and her castmates would be better served. Overall, The Protégé is a film you can put on if you're bored, but otherwise, it's a middle-of-the-road story.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the representations in The Protégé. What does it mean to have Maggie Q and Samuel L. Jackson as the stars of this film? Why is diverse representation in the media important?
What is Anna's morality, and how does it show itself in the film?
How is disability portrayed in the film? Does the portrayal help or cause harm?
How is violence used to progress the plot? Is the violence gratuitous? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
- In theaters: August 20, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: September 20, 2021
- Cast: Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton
- Director: Martin Campbell
- Inclusion Information: Black actors
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 140 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong and bloody violence, language, some sexual references and brief nudity
- Last updated: January 29, 2023
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