In ‘The Virtuoso’ we’re told, by way of voiceover, each and every step being made by a professional assassin played by Anson Mount.
He is supposedly clean, precise and thorough at what he does; a virtuoso, if you will. As the story moves along, you see he’s anything but. Maybe he was in his past, but now he’s making mistakes. Like many films before it, we hear the thoughts in his head as he’s acting, why he’s making his decisions, and… you get the picture. The movie is your essential film noir, complete with diner, which became popular in the 1920s, emphasizing a cynical attitude (which the Virtuoso character definitely has) and leaning on sex as a catalyst to further advance the story. Audiences never really tire of these, but this one feels rather stale. I can’t help but think had this gone the way of a traditional narrative, it could have hit the mark.
We only know the characters by what their role in the film is. Anson Mount is the Virtuoso, of course. Then there’s Abbie Cornish, as the Waitress, Eddie Marsan is the Loner, Richard Brake is Handsome Johnnie, Diora Baird is Johnnie’s Girl, David Morse is the Deputy, and Anthony Hopkins is the Mentor. Throughout most of the film, the Mentor sits at a desk with three cell phones in front of him. Our Virtuoso comes through on one of them. Early in the movie, he tells us he has three rules. Do not rush. Do not hesitate and do not get distracted. The thing is, you’ll see him do all of these things. He gets a job of a delicate nature from the Mentor. He’s given a code by which he deduces the target. He must hit a moving target on a car going over sixty miles an hour from fifty yards away. Sixty in a residential area? Strange. He then stresses that he only gets one shot. There’s a reason you’re getting all of this information and you know exactly what it is when you see a child and his mother playing on the sidewalk. He still has a job to do, and do it he must. So, he does. The result plagues him for the rest of the film. When the Mentor sees that he’s distraught, he takes some responsibility for the rush job. He then offers him some peace by telling him of a horrible moment in Vietnam when he was faced with a similar situation. But, he may as well have saved his breath; our Virtuoso is haunted and can’t get past it.
For you, it’s impossible to get beyond the fact that this guy is supposed to be the best yet suddenly can’t get out of his own way. He’s a softie; he feeds a stray dog, helps a female in distress instead of going straight to a job, has trouble focusing when all he’s doing is telling us how focused he is. Outside of the big accident we’re privy to, is there something else that led him to become so terribly careless? It’s a puzzle.
Another puzzle is why on earth does the clerk at the motel (Chris Perfetti) act like a child who just saw a ghost when the Virtuoso walks in to get a room?! It simply made no sense, and it was hard to ignore. It’s little things such as this that will eat away at you, making it impossible for you to relax and enjoy the film. The direction taken to tell the story and neglecting to fill the audience in on who the Virtuoso is, hurt it overall. The movie could have been good, particularly the ending, though you do see it coming a mile away. At least we learn how the Mentor and Virtuoso found one another, but beyond that, backstory was desperately needed.
Why, oh, why would Anthony Hopkins have agreed to be in this film? I don’t want to say it’s beneath him, but it’s beneath him. I’m glad no one saw it before they had a chance to watch his performance in ‘The Father,’ where not only was the material remarkable, so was he. In fact, this movie has a plethora of names in it! David Morse joins the list of surprise appearances for such an uninspired film.
*Blu-ray and DVD Release: May 4, 2021
Directed and Produced by: Nick Stagliano
Writers: James C. Wolf and Nick Stagliano
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Abbie Cornish, Diora Baird, Anson Mount, Eddie Marsan and David Morse
Rating: R for violence, sexuality/nudity and language
Running Time: 1h 50m
Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller
NAZZ Productions presents, a NAZZ production, in association with 120dB Films/in association with Double Dutch International.
Executive Producers: Fred Fuchs, Nancy Stagliano, Anson Mount, Chris Bongirne, Stephen Hays, Peter Graham, Jason Moring, Mark Padilla, Stanley Preschutti