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July 19, 2020

The Old Guard is an uneven but entertaining action flick.

The Old Guard

Staring: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts,
Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Direction: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Tagline: Forever is harder than it looks.

Over the last decade, we have become so accustomed to Marvel and DC escapades ruling the cinematic summer that the current lack of superhero blockbusters seems downright peculiar. But while members of the Avengers and the Justice League have been forced to take an unexpected hiatus, Netflix is making sure that comic book characters aren’t entirely missing from our screens.

The streaming giant’s latest action flick finds the immortal heroes of Greg Rucka’s The Old Guard making their film debut in what Netflix clearly hopes will become the first installment of a successful franchise.

The movie follows a team of mercenaries - Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Nicky (Luca Marinelli), and their leader Andy (Charlize Theron) - whose regenerative abilities have kept them alive for centuries. But there’s a catch: their healing powers don’t last forever.

Dreadful past experiences have taught the group that they need to hide their presence from the world for fear of being ostracized, captured, experimented on, and/or tortured.

They realize their secret is out, though, when their latest mission turns out to be a set up. Hired by an ex-CIA operative, James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), to save kidnapped children, the team instead has to fight their way out of an ambush.

The seemingly miraculous recovery of a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan, meanwhile, alerts the group to the presence of a new immortal, Nile (KiKi Layne), who is then rescued by Andy. But the newest recruit is reluctant to accept her destiny.

With or without their newest member, the heroes must try to figure out how to neutralize their foe before they are turned into lab rats for a money hungry pharma exec (Harry Melling) who wants to study them and unlock the secret to their powers.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood builds an interesting world led by a strong character who is compelling thanks to the performance of the very well-cast Charlize Theron; the actress excels at playing such ass-kicking, moody roles. A handful of well-orchestrated action sequences add thrill to the proceedings and are at their best when they make use of the immortality aspect during the fights.

But in its attempt to mix the action with human drama, the film runs into pacing issues. Because of the weaknesses in the screenplay, the exposition isn’t exactly the most riveting part of this two hours long film. There are developments that aren’t entirely convincing and elements that just feel shoehorned into the tale. And even with its overlong running time, the movie still fails to explain even the basics of its immortality premise and the mechanics of the regeneration. (What, for instance, would happen if they were dismembered?)

And for an outfit of amazing immortals, the team sadly doesn’t get the chance to face a worthy foe. Instead we have an antagonist who seems more cartoonish than menacing.

That being said, The Old Guard is still a fun, entertaining popcorn flick. The film may make you wish it had shed its more generic elements. It may not have made the most of its intriguing premise or dig as deep as its themes demand, it does manage to create a fascinating world and deliver an enjoyable action outing.

Rating system:  ★Not on your life ★ ½ If you really must waste your time ★★ Hardly worth the bother ★★ ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only ★★★ Good enough for a look see ★★★ ½ Recommended viewing ★★★★ Don’t miss it ★★★★ ½ Almost perfect ★★★★★ Perfection

In the picture