Despite currently winning rave reviews and sailing towards a potential second Oscar, Anthony Hopkins is a fan of picking up a quick pay day. His latest “and Anthony Hopkins” role comes courtesy of the thriller film The Virtuoso.
The Virtuoso seemingly wants to be an ode to the sort of films that don’t get made any more; a Walter Hill style hitman movie owing more to Le Samouraï than to Hitman: Agent 47. We start off promisingly enough with a suitably moody voice over from leading man Anson Mount walking us through the methodology of being a contract killer. His smooth, assured voice telling us “you choose a spot, simple, but not obvious” and so on as a prologue hit goes off in deadly but stylish fashion.
Director and co-writer Nick Stagliano is clearly in the mood for a slow burning thriller about a man grappling with his own guilt – we see in surprisingly nasty detail a hit gone wrong than ends with a fiery bystander casualty. What first begins as a suitable throwback vibe becomes the film’s biggest crux.
Hopkins, to his credit, does devour one scene early on, in which he delivers a monologue about his time in the military with Mount’s now-dead father, filled with racist epithets and swearing, and with minor corrections to his own dialogue, in typical Hopkins fashion. It’s a decent enough scene that reminds us the thesp can deliver menace and a show stopping scene – but it’s the only one.
For the rest of the film it becomes clear that Hopkins will be relegated to the role of being moody, sitting in rooms, drinking a meaningful glass of scotch and nothing else. Mount’s narration is pulpy enough, and his nameless assassin is interesting in how he modulates his guilt, his job and playing someone who can trick others into thinking he’s normal. It’s unfortunate that for some reason Stagliano opts to add great character actors – Eddie Marsan, Richard Brake, David Morse – and then do precisely nothing with them.
Thank the makers then for Abbie Cornish. She seem to be the only one actually enjoying herself in the film, her role as a waitress that strikes up a budding friendship with Mount (yes, it’s that clichéd) is at least filled with her usual warmth and charm. Cornish just about keeps the film going when it veers into plodding and then finally just plain boring – and a thriller should never be that.
Sadly, not matter how good your will to Hopkins or Cornish is – and they offered silly pulp years ago together in Solace – The Virtuoso is meandering yet thin, big on mood and stylish direction from Stagliano but low on that most crucial of things – thrills. It’s neither fun, or trashy, it’s passable if only because of two supporting players offering more than just a slow build to a predictable end.
The Virtuoso is on Digital Download 30 April and DVD 10 May from Lionsgate