VOD film review: The Virtuoso
Narration / ending7
Mount / Cornish6
Plot / tension3
Matthew Turner | On 02, May 2021
Director: Nick Stagliano
Cast: Anson Mount, Abbie Cornish, Eddie Marsan, Richard Brake, Diora Baird, David Morse, Anthony Hopkins
Where to watch The Virtuoso online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
Directed by Nick Stagliano (who co-wrote the script with James C Wolf), this small-town hitman thriller stars Anson Mount (Crossroads, Star Trek: Discovery) as an unnamed hitman who refers to himself as a virtuoso in the film’s offbeat second-person narration. After his latest job results in some spectacularly upsetting collateral damage, our man is severely rattled, which gives his mentor (Anthony Hopkins) some cause for concern, judging by the lengthy speech he dishes out when they meet up at a grave.
The Mentor (that’s how he’s credited – hardly anyone has an actual name in this movie) figures that the only way for the virtuoso to get over his recent disaster is to get back on the old contract-killing horse, so he sends him to a small town with orders to kill a mystery target known only as White Rivers. However, when the virtuoso arrives at the chosen location, he has to choose between several different suspects who might fit the bill, including a diner waitress (Abbie Cornish as The Waitress), a shady-looking cop (David Morse as The Deputy), a guy with a concealed weapon (Eddie Marsan as The Loner) and a couple who seem to be having domestic issues (Richard Brake and Diora Baird).
The second-person voiceover might seem overly pretentious, but it gives the film a nicely noir-ish atmosphere and provides interesting contrast with what’s actually happening, in that the virtuoso isn’t nearly as competent as his smooth dialogue would have you believe. It also has a great pay-off, but it’s the sort of pay-off that makes you think the whole film was designed around it and some might feel it doesn’t quite justify the 105-minute running time.
Mount delivers an enjoyably square-jawed performance, but you never quite buy that he’s the sort of emotionless automaton who needs to practise appropriate facial expressions in the mirror, as he does here, and the script is rather inconsistent in that respect. Cornish, for her part, is clearly enjoying herself, giving The Waitress a strong, sexual energy and generating intriguing chemistry with Mount – their inevitable encounter is amusingly awkward in the early stages.
Unfortunately, the rest of the supporting cast aren’t given nearly enough to do and the film largely wastes great character actors such as Marsan and Morse, although Chris Perfetti delivers an engaging turn as a nervous motel clerk. As for recent Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (the film’s release is something of a happy coincidence), he’s only in two locations and he probably shot all his scenes in a single afternoon. Still, his inordinately lengthy monologue at least means he has something nice to chew on while he’s there.
Other than the general issue that befalls all hitman movies – the struggle to make the audience care about a killer – the film’s main problem is that the central premise simply isn’t compelling enough, as we’re given no reason to care who White Rivers might be, or even if the virtuoso manages to get his mojo back. On top of that, there are plot holes and inconsistencies galore, such as the fact that the Virtuoso makes a big deal in his narration about his anonymity-providing contract procedure but can apparently be contacted by The Mentor over the phone at any time. Frankly, it’s the sort of film that falls apart if you think about it too much, so it’s probably best not to do that. The ending is good, though.