With Martin Campbell’s The Protégé now in theaters with a fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating, there’s no better time for a career retrospective. Campbell has been in the business for several decades, producing work that (in critics’ eyes) has varying quality.
However, even if Campbell has directed some films that the audience didn’t fall in love with, the inverse is also true. In particular, his work with the world’s most famous superspy has gone over well not just once, but twice. As with the James Bond franchise, critics have found Martin Campbell’s films to be all over the map, but still more than worth checking out.
10 Green Lantern (26%)
One of several major superhero blockbusters to hit theaters in the summer of 2011, Green Lantern easily suffered the worst fate of them all. It is also Martin Campbell’s worst-reviewed film, save for 2003’s Beyond Borders.
Critics felt that Green Lantern lacked what X-Men: First Class, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger had: distinction. The general consensus was that it was just another shallow, CGI-driven noise fest. The most positive reviews still pointed out its imperfections, merely bestowing the recommendation that the movie’s fun.
9 The Legend Of Zorro (26%)
2005’s The Legend of Zorro follows the titular hero as he stops a menacing secret society: the Knights of Aragon. However, he is also looking down the barrel of an ugly divorce.
Martin Campbell’s follow-up to his 1998 hit, The Mask of Zorro, did not receive as warm a welcome from audiences or critics. It was Zorro’s relationship with his wife that many took issue with. Critics found Zorro’s scenes with Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to be both too long and too campy.
8 Criminal Law (33%)
In spite of a terrific Kevin Bacon performance, Criminal Law didn’t fare well with critics. While there is no consensus on the film, the late Roger Ebert’s review was very revealing.
According to the Roger Ebert website, he said the film is “a textbook example of a movie going wrong before our very eyes, because of the curious failure of the filmmakers to realize that you can toy with an audience only so long before the audience grows resentful.” Essentially, the movie didn’t know when to call it quits and stop throwing misdirections the audience’s way.
7 Vertical Limit (48%)
Martin Campbell does action very, very well. However, critics sometimes think there isn’t quite enough balance between set pieces and character development.
Campbell’s mountain climbing thriller, Vertical Limit, is an example of critics feeling he didn’t strike the right balance. The film contains thrilling, tense scenes from start to finish. However, critics felt that after enough of these scenes the audience becomes numb to it. In the end, Veritcal Limit is merely a good guilty-pleasure action film.
6 Edge Of Darkness (55%)
In 2010, Martin Campbell directed Edge of Darkness, a gritty Mel Gibson-starring detective story (which was also an adaptation of a 1985 BBC series also directed by Campbell). The film follows a detective investigating the murder of his daughter, an activist, only to pull a much longer thread.
The movie was Gibson’s return to leading man status after an eight-year, controversy-fueled hiatus. It’s not known as one of Mel Gibson’s best movies, but critics found it to be a solid return to form for the disgraced actor. Throw in what is nearly a career-best performance by Ray Winstone, and Edge of Darkness is worth checking out.
5 The Protege (60%)
Campbell’s newest foray into the revenge sub-genre this time featured a female protagonist as an assassin (the perpetually underrated Maggie Q) in pursuit of those who killed her trainer (Samuel L. Jackson).
Critical praise hasn’t been sterling, but even the more negative reviews say its worst quality is simple predictability. Even with that factored in, the majority of critics cited the film as both fun and action-packed. Furthermore, The Protégé has three central performances (Q, Jackson, and Michael Keaton) that were uniformly praised.
4 The Foreigner (66%)
Campbell reunited with Pierce Brosnan (this time playing more or less the villain) for The Foreigner, starring Jackie Chan. It’s a fun revenge tale (certainly Campbell’s specialty) about a man who loses his daughter in a politically motivated act of terrorism.
Most of the praise heaped towards the film went towards Chan. Some critics cited his martial arts prowess while others cited his restrained performance. Some critics even called it the best performance of his career. Those who didn’t favor it still called it a welcome return to the action genre for both Chan and Brosnan.
3 Goldeneye (78%)
After Timothy Dalton’s two dour outings as James Bond, Goldeneye was just the shot in the arm the franchise needed. Frenetically paced in the best way, Campbell’s film starts strong and never lets up, resulting in what is far and away Brosnan’s best Bond film.
A lot of praise was given to the set pieces. In particular, the tank chase through the streets of St. Petersburg. Just as much, if not more, praise was bestowed upon Famke Jannsen. Many critics called her one of the series’ stronger secondary villains up to that point. Some critics even found Goldeneye’s hilarious quotes to be just as strong as its action.
2 The Mask Of Zorro (83%)
A box office hit and a perennial favorite on afternoon cable TV, The Mask of Zorro is certainly one of Campbell’s most well-regarded films. This extends to critics’ perspectives, as well.
Even the less positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes show a bit of respect for the film’s fun-fueled momentum. Perhaps the most succinct encapsulation of the film’s merits comes from Todd McCarthy of Variety: “The Mask of Zorro stands as a pointed riposte to those who say they don’t make ’em like that anymore.” In short, The Mask of Zorro is an entertaining, throwback swashbuckler that makes for two fun hours at the movies.
1 Casino Royale (94%)
In 2006, Martin Campbell again exceeded James Bond fans’ expectations. Just as he ushered in a new Bond in Pierce Brosnan, he did the same for Daniel Craig.
The plot of Casino Royale is so tightly written and effective that certain threads will be utilized in Craig’s upcoming final chapter as the spy, No Time to Die, according to the trailer. Praise was thrown towards just about everything the film had to offer, from the practical parkour stunts of the opening scene to the disposal of many of the series’ cliches (the gadgets, the constant parade of women Bond barely knows, etc.).