Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Virtuoso, Co-Starring Academy Award Winner Sir Anthony Hopkins

There is really only one vocation that studio films consistently show respect for the professionalism and commitment of its practitioners. Of course, that would be the contract killer. Surely, there must be some hitmen out there who really don’t want to think about what they are doing. They’re just punching the clock like the rest of us. Maybe, but that certainly would not be the nameless protagonist-narrator of Nick Stagliano’s The Virtuoso, which releases Friday in select theaters and on-demand.

For someone as careful as “The Virtuoso,” he sure likes to talk about what he does. Granted, it is all probably interior monologue, but that makes his use of second and third-person even weirder. Maybe it comes with the territory. He is good at his job, but he is tired of messy, public spectacle mob hits. It is just clean, accidental corporate and government work for him from here on out. Unfortunately, his booking agent, “The Mentor,” pushes him to accept a rush gig without his usual prep time. As a result, an innocent family became collateral damage. The only thing for the Virtuoso do is get back on the horse, so he takes another weird assignment from the Mentor.

He does not know who the target will be. Only that the unknown subject will be at a diner in a small Lynchian Poconos village, at a certain time. It turns out a lot of shady characters are there for the Early Bird Special, including a crooked deputy and possibly another pro.

Seriously, there is more voiceover narration in
The Virtuoso than a full season of I Led 3 Lives. It thinks it is being very clever, but the twist means our very cautious cast of characters are deliberately complicating their plans and objectives. When you get right down to it, the entire scheme is hard to buy into.

On the other hand,
The Virtuoso has Sir Anthony Hopkins in his first film since winning his second Oscar for Best Actor, which apparently is now the biggest award the Academy has to offer. Admittedly, this is a grubby little noir thriller, but Hopkins has a terrific scene early on that proves he can bring his A-game to any film he happens to appear in.

Yes, Hopkins is great. Anson Mount is not at his level (just like most of the rest of us), but he handles the voiceover duties quite eloquently. He also does the hardboiled thing relatively well. David Morse and Eddie Marsan add noir color as “The Deputy” and “The Loner,” respectively. However, Abbie Cornish stands out in a plot-telegraphing kind of way as “The Waitress.”

Surprisingly, Stagliano manages to wring a good deal of suspense out of the small cast of usual suspects and the limited small-town setting. Despite credibility issues, it really isn’t bad at all. The notable supporting cast definitely helps elevate screenwriter James C. Wolf’s material, especially Sir Anthony (frankly, we’ve always enjoyed watching him slumming it in entertainingly pulpy films like
Solace and Kidnapping Mr. Heineken). Sort of recommended as a noir fix, The Virtuoso releases in select theaters and via all VOD platforms this Friday (4/30).