THE OLD GUARD (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: Forever is harder than it looks. Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (LOVE & BASKETBALL, BEYOND THE LIGHTS), THE OLD GUARD is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks.
Charlie Theron has been working damn hard since her acclaimed performance as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. She is not just being busy in front of the camera but her schedule includes producing her own movies and that means her latest Netflix offering, The Old Guard as well.
Based on the comic book by Eisner-winning writer Greg Rucka, it’s a story of a group of immortal soldiers led by Andy (Theron) who roam the world offering their special set of skills to those who can afford to hire them. In their latest mission, Andy, Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) are hired by former CIA operative, James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to rescue a group of kidnapped children in South Sudan.
Unfortunately, it’s just a ruse to showcase the group’s abilities to a pharmaceutical CEO, Steven Merrick (Harry Melling) who hopes to harness their DNA and genes for medical use. At the same time, a US Marine, Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne) discovered she too possessed the same healing powers as Andy and gang. Andy must then persuade Nile to join them and also fight off the advances of Merrick and his henchmen.
To be frank,The Old Guard is a mixture of Wolverine, Deadpool and Highlander and offers nothing new specially to seasoned movie fans of Marvel and DC. There’s plenty of flashbacks and newspaper clips that hints of how Andy and gang fought their way in historical wars and events but the movie never delivers a solid stand as to how and when it all started. Again, Andy and Booker keeps lamenting about their struggles of being an immortal, it’s clearly repetitive, obvious and remains a narrative filler until the next action sequence comes up.
Theron of course is excellent as the tortured immortal. An immortal who no longer trust humankind and also constantly torment by the loss of her sister-in-comrade, Quynh. The filmmakers even sneaked in a LGBT romance story that lacks a certain believability factor consider how abrupt it was. Relatively newcomer, KiKi Layne puts in a stunning performance opposite seasoned actress Theron. Both delivers strong acting and action chops and their sparring sequence on a moving plane is a solid testament to it.
The action sequences on the other hand are shot mostly with quick edits, fast blurry camera moves despite the cast’ best efforts in performing their own stunts. There’s hardly a standout sequence in the end despite a handful of seemingly badass sequences. At the end, rather than a CGI heavy popcorn action flick, Gina Prince-Bythewood delivered a character-driven comic book hero movie instead. It can be sluggish at times, lacks the fun and thrills of Deadpool and even Blade. It’s all too serious and despondent. But hey it’s Netflix, you can pause and rewatch some other time. Best of all, it’s still watchable because of Theron if you love her in Atomic Blonde. (There’s even a closing scene that hints of a sequel!).
Review by Linus Tee