vir·tu·o·so /ˌvərCHəˈwōsō/ noun: virtuoso; plural noun: virtuosi; plural noun: virtuosos A person highly skilled in music or another artistic pursuit.
A virtuoso is typically defined as a singular performer in an artistic piece, or at least the featured one, often billed as the reason someone should go to see a particular performance or orchestra. While there are some very skilled artists in this piece, the piece they are performing is flawed, and though there are good moments, ultimately the piece fails to deliver on the promise of its potential. This is especially a shame, as the premise is solid, and could have been worked better through different writing, or at least through a different presentation by the lead character.
The Virtuoso (Anson Mount) is a killer for hire, and the film opens with him preparing for his most recent assignment. A simple enough job, but as narrated by Mount, it is one done with less planning than normal, which can lead to complications. This is the setup for the hit taking an innocent life as collateral damage (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer). Mount has a bit of trouble coping with the development, but after an awkward “pep talk” from his employer (Anthony Hopkins), Mount is back on the job and ready for his next assignment. As he has explained through the lead-up exposition, the assignments do not always contain the name of the target, which must be discovered by the clues given when the assignment is accepted. This latest assignment is described as personal, and with the client making a specific request for the mark. Mount arrives at the location given in his assignment note and has to determine who of the players is the target. He has several options, and the film follows his process through determining the correct one and executing the hit. There is also a potential innocent who has gotten involved, who Mount must also deal with.
Presented as a suspense thriller, pitting hired killers against each other with a mystery in who, and potentially why, the contract has been taken out, all of the pieces are there for a compelling film, which would keep a viewer on edge, and guessing. Sadly, that potential falls a bit flat, and the holes in the story leave the viewer asking questions, but not good suspenseful ones. The narration done throughout the majority of the film is Mount explaining the day-to-day routines of being a contract killer. He discussed the rules and protocols for conducting a successful business, but then he proceeds to not follow those protocols in frustrating ways. It would be one thing if they were to further the story, or if there was a basis for them, but it comes across as just sloppy work on his part. The mystery and suspense that were starting to build fall apart because of one of these sloppy moments, and the final reveal is not a shocking blow at all, having been clumsily telegraphed earlier in the film, and in a way so obvious that it could not be missed.
While there were moments of excellence from the actors, there were also bits that leave the viewer wondering why certain directing choices were made. For one example, having Anthony Hopkins speak in a “tough thug” manner during the previously mentioned awkward pep talk scene, was jarring. As seen in such roles as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins can be powerfully menacing without much effort. The jarring dialogue they wrote for his character seemed inappropriate to the manner in which Hopkins carries himself and says the lines. Another bit that takes the viewer out of the moment is the manner in which Mount narrates the film. Aside from the clumsy insertion of words to include the film title, the narration is written as if Mount is talking to the viewer, but more of an instructional way than an explanation. It may have been my personal impression, but the style didn’t work and was distracting. A rewrite of the monologue would have done quite a bit to improve the film’s flow.
There were a few highlights, however. Outside of the one scene when Hopkins gets Mount back into focus, Hopkins’ performance is his usual impeccable quality. Even the pep talk scene is well-acted, it is the dialogue that derails that scene. Mount has some excellent character moments of being a stern and serious person, who recognizes that his facial expressions are not normal, and tries to practice smiling in a convincing manner. A minor character choice, which could have been used to much greater effect in a better-written film. Abbie Cornish, the waitress, and personal distraction for Mount is well utilized, and her performance is top-notch. Even though her character arc is clear, she does a superb job with this role.
At the end of the piece, I was left wanting more; more suspense, more mystery, more questions that weren’t of the “Why would he do that?” variety. There was so much that could have made this a great movie, but it felt as though time and care weren’t put into it. Time and precision which The Virtuoso details through the narration.
About The Virtuoso
Synopsis: Danger, deception, and murder descend upon a sleepy town when a professional assassin accepts a new assignment from his enigmatic boss. Given a cryptic clue, the place, and the time, he must identify his mysterious mark among several possible targets.
Director: Nick Stagliano
Writers: James C. Wolf, Nick Stagliano (Screenplay)
Stars: Anson Mount, Abbie Cornish, David Morse, Anthony Hopkins
Rated: R for violence, sexuality/nudity and language
Runtime: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
Eric is a bit of many things: pirate, photographer, geek, biker, gamer, jewelry maker and master of bad puns. He has worked for Phoenix Comicon every year from 2007 to 2016 and was been a part of the Arizona Renaissance Festival from 2009 to 2013, which is where he picked up the Bald Pirate name. He also chuckles a lot when referring to himself in the third person.