Movie Review: A hitman with a conscience is no “Virtuoso”

With older actors, the offers are scarce even for the great ones. So there’s always a risk that some unfortunate bit of timing will put a stinker out the week you began by winning yet another Academy Award.

Well, that’s basically an Anthony Hopkins problem, with the esteemed Ben Kingsley and lest-we-forget-his-Oscars Mel Gibson also running that “risk.”

“Father” Best Actor Hopkins is the biggest name among the “names” in the cast of “The Virtuoso,” a limp hitman thriller built around Anson Mount, but a project that also lured Abbie Cornish, Eddie Marsan and David Morse into its clutches.

It’s the sort of film that starts out bad and occasionally lapses into awful, largely thanks to a dull lead and the fact that the script has him narrating, in voice over, his every move in the second person.

“You’re a shadow…you need to make it look like an accident.”

In the hands of Mount (of “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Hell on Wheels”), this sounds like textbook-on-tape readings from “Hitman 101.” It’s a dreadful touch and he recites those lines like an actor who realizes that.

Mount is an assassin for hire, living in the cliched “off the grid” cabin — friendless, barely up to the task of warming to a stray dog who comes by.

Hopkins is the mysterious figure who hands out our killer’s assignments. When one hit creates horrific collateral damage, we see why the two-time Oscar winner, six-time nominee took the role. He takes off the sunglasses and tells his hireling a tale of his Vietnam War years. That’s a good scene.

Nothing for it but to get on to the next job, eh? Our killer is sent into the mountains, looking for a person or place named “White Rivers.” Nobody in this corner of Pennsylvania has a clue.

The too-friendly waitress (Cornish) named “Dixy,” assorted redneck couples, a loner (Marsan) and a sheriff’s deputy (Morse) are all in the diner with our shooter, all potential targets. He narrates the hell out of this experience.

“The first piece to any plan is your escape. You want it clean, unobserved and anonymous.”

Who will live, who will die and who will lead our increasingly puzzled killer to this “White Rivers?”

Director Nick Stagliano (“Good Day for It”) creates a little suspense in that diner scene, and almost none any where else in “The Virtuoso.” It’s a clumsily obvious script and the lead isn’t talented or committed enough to hide the fact that he realizes that.

So what we’re left with is “What brought you here?” questions to ponder of the cast. The formidable Marsan probably figured, “I get to work with HOPKINS!” Morse, too. Cornish? She plays a blowsy “type,” but vamps it up and had to realize she has the best lines.

What does Dixy want? To “spend the night in a warm embrace, the kind you get only after great sex.”

Subtle. But she reminds Hollywood that she’s out there, middle-aged and sexy and looking for good work, or at least better than this.

But there’s no point in pummeling this picture or its star any more. The best anybody involved can hope for is that it’s quickly forgotten.

MPA Rating: R for violence, sexuality/nudity and language

Cast: Anson Mount, Abbie Cornish, Eddie Marsan, David Morse and Anthony Hopkins

Credits: Directed by Nick Stagliano, script by  James C. Wolf. A Lionsgate release.

Running time: 1:50

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.