The Old Guard, a boring misfire from director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights) and writer Greg Rucka, is an action/thriller with no stakes.
A team of mercenaries, led by Charlize Theron, are immortal and invincible. They have lived through historic events, have exclusive training in the fighting arts, and can survive violent injuries and regenerate their health within moments. The film pitches problems for these people, but I didn’t buy any of it. Their conflicts stem from their own isolation; being born with an incredible gift that also counteracts as their burden. There’s also a tease about Theron trying to reconnect with a fallen colleague. But, I can’t invest in characters this jaded and underwritten. They have emotional reflections that are too brief and numb, that are then forgotten about as the movie turns to violent gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. To make matters worse, even action junkies will be disappointed by the fast edits during the film’s routine fight choreography, as well as by the clichéd plot about a maniacal medical mogul (Harry Melling) trying to capture and capitalize on the cause of the central immortality.
The Old Guard is fleetingly impressive with its special effects. No matter how preposterous the fatalities are, the film is able to replicate them rather well with gory animation, and then show how the brutalized body can heal. However, other than feeling squeamish, there’s no other emotional connection from viewers because we know their limboing fates will be fine. A better example of this concept is found in Justin McConnell’s Lifechanger, a brilliant horror about a dying, desperate shapeshifter who needs to harvest on bodies to continue living in order to reconnect with a lost romance. Now *that’s* a movie with motivation and intrigue.
This Netflix Original follows in the same bold footsteps as other mediocre tentpole projects like Bright and Bird Box in that it arrogantly sets itself up for a sequel or some sort of continuation of this story; assuming it did a great job. Here’s hoping movie goers are given more to care for on the next round.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie