THE OLD GUARD
Running Time: 125 mins.
Where Can You See It?: Netflix
Premise: A team of four immortal mercenaries led by Charlize Theron are joined by a newly immortal soldier (If Beale Street Could Talk’s Kiki Layne) to take down a power-hungry Pharma bro who is hell-bent on using their powers of rejuvenation in a new experimental drug.
Behind-the-Scenes: Based on a graphic novel series by Greg Rucka, who also wrote the screenplay. This is a real change of pace for director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who is best known for modest character dramas like Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights.
The Good: Charlize Theron has enough action bona fides at this point in her career that you instantly buy her as a tough-as-nails, bad-ass warrior. She could do this kind of role in her sleep, but never gives less than 100%. She’s well-matched by Layne, in the most interesting (and audience surrogate) role. When the movie flashes back to Theron in ancient times, the movie really comes alive with cool settings and costumes – it hints at a much bigger world than the one we actually get to see. There’s an incredible character “death” involving an immortal stuck in a sarcophagus under water – I can’t imagine a worse way to go than drowning every minute for the rest of your life. Horrifying. Prince-Bythewood keeps things real and proves adept at staging some of the action, but her sensibilities are most apparent in the soundtrack for the film.
The Bad: This is yet another table-setting first film in a would-be franchise that apparently saves all the good stuff for future sequels that may never be made. The script lacks humor and doesn’t have nearly enough fun with this premise as it could have. The villains are weak (sorry, Dudley Dursley) and Chiwetel Ejiofor is severely wasted. A third act plot twist comes out of nowhere and lands with a thud. Most of the movie takes place in modern day international settings that are kind of blah, and it quickly settles into a repetitive rhythm of talky exposition punctuated by ho-hum gun-fu and fistfights every 20 minutes. It ends on a cliffhanger that teases more exciting adventures to come, which proves more frustrating than anything else.
Should You See It?: No. The Old Guard is easy enough to sit through, but it doesn’t really offer anything new or fresh enough to warrant your investment of time. Hopefully, this “one for them” allows Prince-Bythewood to get bigger, better opportunities in the future.
Star Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars
Better Than: Bloodshot
Worse Than: Extraction, Atomic Blonde
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