CAST: Anson Mount, Abbie Cornish, Anthony Hopkins, Eddie Marsan, David Morse, Richard Brake, Diora Baird
RUNNING TIME: 110 mins
BASICALLY…: An assassin (Mount) must determine the identity of his next target…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Emotional detachment is surely a must-have component in the life of an assassin – after all, as we’ve all learned in countless movies about hitmen over the years, if you express too much sympathy for the target you’ve been assigned to kill, then it becomes much harder to pull the trigger. However, it’s surely not too much to ask that the movie we are willingly choosing to spend up to two hours watching has at least one thing to latch onto emotionally, and it’s here where The Virtuoso fails to hit the target.
A dull, overlong and incredibly cold thriller from producer and director Nick Stagliano (from a script by James C. Wolf), The Virtuoso lacks any real stamina or suspense, because there’s barely anything to get you invested in this story, the lead character, or even some of the performances. It is simply a by-the-numbers, routine hitman thriller that doesn’t set itself any kind of goals or a sense of ambition, and just is what it is without setting itself apart from the competition.
In the film, we meet an assassin known only as “The Virtuoso” (Anson Mount), who’s basically like every cold-blooded killer you’ve ever come across in a movie; emotionless, isolated in a woodland cabin, and exceedingly good at what he does – except, however, during a kill that inevitably goes wrong and causes some rather explosive collateral damage (in the disappointingly only true moment of unintentional hilarity in an otherwise humourless movie). He’s later contacted by his mentor (Anthony Hopkins) for another assignment, where he’s only given the mysterious phrase “White Rivers” as well as a time and location, that being a small diner in a quiet town that happens to be filled with character actors left and right, from Eddie Marsan to Richard Brake to David Morse, and even Abbie Cornish as the waitress. There, the Virtuoso must determine the identity of his target by the process of elimination, and eventually complete his mission.
Whatever movie you’re picturing in your head based on that plot synopsis, that’s probably what you’ll get here. There are very few surprises, including the ones it thinks are surprises, but because it’s plainly telegraphed what they are, the audience is always more than one step ahead of the seemingly sophisticated protagonist. There is a distinct absence of urgency in this script, as well as a clumsy collection of plot points which, when added together, really don’t make a whole lot of sense. Stagliano’s direction, though ultimately unremarkable, does occasionally offer some dark, cold thrills in scenes that only briefly hint at what kind of movie this could have been, but the script thrives far too much on its generic mystery and thinks it’s far cleverer than it is, especially with a cloying narration by the main character that unnecessarily fills the audience in on what is actually going through his head.
Then again, the movie probably needs that narration to tell us about this protagonist, because lead actor Anson Mount gives absolutely nothing to his performance. He is an utter plank of wood in this movie, with naught in terms of charisma, screen presence or emotional range, and I know he’s supposed to be playing an emotionally detached character, but the audience still has to watch a movie about this guy, and there needs to be something about him that’s interesting enough to keep hanging on, and there really isn’t. Because the performance is so lifeless and uninteresting, and the script doesn’t help by giving him zero dimensions other than things you’ve seen before in other movie hitmen, there’s no reason to care about this guy or what he does, and yet we have to put up with his endless narration and blank expressions throughout the entire thing.
Perhaps that’s why there’s so many recognisable character actors in this movie, so they can actively act circles around this guy and still come out with some dignity in a movie that is, in all honesty, well beneath many of them. Actors like Eddie Marsan and David Morse aren’t around for long, but in their limited amount of screen time they give far more invested turns than Mount does, and in addition to being the film’s biggest acting draw, Anthony Hopkins ends up being the best part of the entire movie, because while it’s likely that the Oscar-winning actor took on his role just to nab an easy salary, he doesn’t appear to be sleepwalking through his performance which he does look like he’s having a bit of fun with. He’s at least trying to bring some gravitas to the thin material, especially during a monologue about his army days which goes on for far longer than it needs to, which is more that can be said about the actor who’s actually central to the movie.
Regardless of the decent performances (minus the lead, of course), The Virtuoso still isn’t high-ranking material in any way shape or form. It’s a film that will leave you mostly feeling bored instead of thrilled, with its rather cold plotting leaving a giant blank space where emotional investment desperately needs to be slotted into. It has a lead who you could not give any less of a damn about, because the performance is extraordinarily wooden and the writing gives practically zero dimensions to him. Most of all, though, it feels like a waste of everybody’s time, from the actors – who, once again, are so far above this wasteful material – to the people who have to sit through every uneventful minute of this dull nothing of a movie.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Virtuoso is a dull and cold hitman thriller which has little soul in its routine script, and a lead character who’s impossible to be interested in due to a lack of depth in the writing and an extremely wooden turn by Anson Mount, which the supporting cast of character actors are easily able to outshine in many aspects.