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Virtuoso, The


Stars: Anson Mount, Abbie Cornish, Anthony Hopkins, David Morse, Eddie Marsan, Richard Brake

Director: Nick Stagliano

This hitman movie gets off to a sharpish start with an assassin (Mount) disposing of the male half of a copulating couple, though this is an early indication of the film's tendency to extraneous exploitation. What sort of life this entails, with the assassin living in a shack in the deep woods with his dog, only emerging to visit his personal locker for instructions on the next hit, heaven only knows.

At any rate, he's not the same after his latest hit, when a bystander is accidentally engulfed in flames, after the car whose tyre he has just shot out crashes, killing his intended victim.

'Collateral damage, kiddo,' the boss (Hopkins) tells him, trying to ease his conscience by telling him, in the film's best scene, how he once had to kill innocent women and children in the Vietnam War.

But it's clear to us, when the 'virtuoso' gets his next assignment, to locate the mysterious 'White River' at a roadside cafe, that it's the assassin himself who is now considered expendable.

But which of the shady characters consequently assembled at Rita's diner, if any, is out to get him? All of them, perhaps, or none. The loner (Marsan)? The comely waitress (Cornish) who seems available? The womaniser (Brake)? The deputy sheriff (Morse)? Or even the unseen chef? It's like the final tableau in John Wayne's The Shootist, although we don't learn the secret of White River until the film's final few moments.

Mount's droning monotone narration quickly establishes this in noir territory, although the film starts to get silly once the main plotline kicks in, and the inevitable final 'twist' will come as a surprise to few people outside of the hitman himself.

Available on most digital platforms

David Quinlan

USA 2020. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Technicolor.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 29 Apr 2021