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Review: The Virtuoso – “The presence of an Oscar winner clearly doesn’t always guarantee quality”

Oscar recipients don’t always follow up a win with a winning film.  Sometimes, their future roles are head scratchers.  Think Kate Winslet, who had a pretty wonderful 2008 with Revolutionary Road and The Reader, which won her an Oscar.  Shortly after she ended up in the dismal Movie 43.  So too did Halle Berry, who won her Oscar for Monster’s Ball and then quickly became Catwoman.  We all make decisions we might regret (or decisions we make just for fun?), but in the case of new release The Virtuoso, the question for recent Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Father) might be to whom he owed a favour that led to him appearing in this film.

Anson Mount (Star Trek: Discovery) plays the titular Virtuoso, a professional assassin with a seemingly endless supply of inner monologue.  His boss, Hopkins, sends him out on assignment to a small town with a cryptic message – White Rivers.  He knows only the where and when, but he’s left to decipher his target. Is it the local Sheriff (David Morse) who seems to be suspicious of his presence?  Or could it be Handsome Johnnie (Richard Brake) who seems to have befriended another possible suspect at the diner he’s in? The alluring waitress at the diner, Abbie Cornish, seems happy to answer questions, yet stands to possibly thwart The Virtuoso’s assignment with her attentions.

While the premise and plot for this film, as thin as it is, has promise, the ‘execution’ of the movie (sorry I had to) certainly never does.  Director Nick Stagliano works from a screenplay by James C. Wolf that seems more like a book than a film.  Due to the blandly delivered voiceover that is used throughout the entire film, it seems like Anson Mount really is just reading a novel.  And it’s not a good audio-book version.  The choppy inner-monologue of our hitman never really reveals anything we couldn’t see with our own eyes, instead explaining his activities with such scintillating dialogue as, “It’s rushed.  You know that.  You wish you had more time. But it’s a plan.  It will have to do.”

There is little character building here which seems just as well since Mount, who was pretty darn charming as Captain Christopher Pike on Star Trek: Discovery, has left all semblance of emotion behind.  Fair enough, he’s playing a professional assassin, but that assassin has only one facial expression through the entire film.  Don’t worry though, despite his career choice he still has some humanity left, as subtly pointed out in the stray dog he feeds (his general concern for canines is a highlight.)  Abbie Cornish is there for one purpose only, to add some sex appeal, despite some very awkward ‘sexy’ scenes.  Her character, while having more facial expressions, still isn’t compelling.  Even Hopkins, who is given one longer monologue (where he reminds the audience a couple times that the term “plugging” means to shoot someone) cannot save the film from its final, dismal fate.

It’s pretty clear from watching this film that its release is really riding on the coattails of Hopkins’ name and recent Academy Award success, but for the bloated 110 minutes I spent with The Virtuoso, I may take my time in forgiving him.  Sure, the presence of an Oscar winner clearly doesn’t always guarantee quality, but after his affecting, graceful performance in The Father I had at least some grander expectations.  However, I unfortunately found little to redeem this film.  Still, days after viewing The Virtuoso, I seem to have Mount’s monotone voice stuck in my head, dully narrating my day to day – You sit down.  You type on your keyboard.  You know this review will have to do.

The Virtuoso is currently out on VOD and digital platforms.

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One Comment

  1. One for the Academy… one for the bank balance.

    I enjoyed the review, but think I’ll give the film a miss!

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