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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 27, 2021



‘THE VIRTUOSO’ is Anthony Hopkins’ new movie after he won his second Oscar best actor award for “The Father” where he gave a truly shattering performance in the title role. This time, he plays a supporting role that didn’t require much from him and which he obviously did just for the extra income. 

The lead character is “The Virtuoso”, a hitman who’s supposed to be an expert in his field. He’s played by Anson Mount, who looks somewhat like a younger George Clooney. He’s better known as a TV actor for the hit period series “Hell on Wheels”. The assassin movie is almost a separate genre in itself and the best include the “John Wick” franchise, “The Professional” with Jean Reno, “The Equalizer: with Denzel Washington, the “Jason Bourne” franchise, and “The Day of the Jackal”.

All the characters in “The Virtuoso” have no names. As an assassin, the Virtuoso is an enigmatic loner who lives all by himself in a cottage in the woods. He’s also very meticulous and works by the book. The first mission he is shown executing in the movie got botched when he accidentally kills an innocent bystander, a mother who is engulfed by flames. 

He feels guilty about it, indicating that he’s not that ruthlessly coldbloodedly after all. But his boss (Anthony Hopkins), who he looks up to as some sort of a father figure, assures him it’s just part of his job. When they see each other in a graveyard, Hopkins delivers a long aria telling the Virtuoso about his own part in a massacre of innocent civilians and he doesn’t feel morally challenged about it. 

This is the only important scene of Hopkins in the entire movie and without it, he’d have looked more like a glorified extra. Honestly, what a shame! After his lengthy monologue, his boss assigns a new job to the Virtuoso. He is sent to remote town with a cryptic message to kill someone with only a vague clue about it, the name White Rivers. 

He goes to the town’s only diner and tries to figure out who could be his potential target among its customers. A waitress (Abbie Cornish) is extra helpful to him and obviously wants to spend the night with him. He asks her about White Rivers but she claims she has no clue to as to what it really means. She says her name is Dixy, but you get the feeling she’s not exactly telling the truth.

Mount as the titular character narrates the movie himself in a lackluster monotone. He delineates the requirements of his craft and he gets to deliver pseudo profound lines like “Perfection demands precision. Precision demands perseverance.” 

He seems to be a good actor but, sadly, as the titular character, he is not given that much to work on as all the characters in the movie are all sketchily written. One does not even truly sympathize with him. Honestly, we’re more concerned with the fate of the cute stray dog that he befriended in the forest than in him. 

The supporting characters similarly don’t fare any better. David Morse plays the town’s dumb sheriff, Eddie Marsan is a would be assassin who’s quickly downed by a poison drink, and Richard Brake and Diora Baird play ill fated lovers. 

Aside from the Virtuso, the other important character in the movie is the flirtatious Waitress, but Abbie Cornish, who played it, is so chubby for the role. She seduces the Virtuoso here and he’s shown succumbing to her charms. But she should have been told to lose 20 lbs. no less before shooting the movie for her to be more credible in her role. 

We think the film aims to be a good and intricate neo-noir narrative that will explore the amoral side of an assassin’s psyche. But sorry, the holes in the very contrived script are not credibly plugged and Director Nick Staliagno is hindered by it to come up with something really innovative in the assassin genre. 

Of course, as maybe expected, there’s a big twist in the storytelling that is trying hard to be clever. But if you’re perceptive enough, you can quickly predict it early on. The ending tries to explain all the kinks in the way the story is developed but it seems all flawed and not convincing and this drags everything in this cloak-and-dagger thriller down. After all is said and done, the Virtuoso didn’t out to really be one. And so is the director who helmed this film.