Review- The Old Guard
The Old Guard is the newest superhero film to be released on Netflix and it is based on the comic book of the same name. Charlize Theron stars as Andromache of Scythia (but you can call her Andy) and her group of friends including Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli).
They are assigned by former CIA operative Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to rescue a group of children in Africa. The group is ambushed and riddled with bullets and is seemingly killed, but it turns out they are immortal and can heal their wounds, much like fellow Superhero Wolverine. This is where they find out that they have been set up by Copley who is working for pharmaceutical executive Steven Merrick (Harry Melling) who wants to find out the secrets behind the group’s immortality.
Meanwhile, U.S Marine Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne) is seemingly killed in combat but miraculously survives. Andy and the group see Nile in their dreams, and after realising that she is immortal, Andy recruits her to the team.
Firstly, the strongest aspect of The Old Guard is the acting, with Theron being confident and natural as she has always been while playing the lead in an actioner such as this. Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave fame gives an outstanding performance as usual as he does the best he can with the material. Merrick is played by Harry Melling (who you may know as Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter films) and is great at playing a slimy villain as he channels his inner Dudley with his dead eyes and uncaring attitude. Kiki Layne has a solid performance as she displays Freeman coming to terms with the fact that she can not die.
Other than the competent acting, everything else is a big let-down and is largely shown with the action. The sequences are far and few in between, and when they do happen the editing is amateurish and the fight choreography lacks any creativity or tension.
The camera is so close to the actors, that you often you cannot see what is happening on screen. When you have the entire John Wick trilogy that spoils you with its immaculately crafted sequences, this feels like a poor man's version of that. It also feels like a waste of Theron’s talents when you remember her performance as Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road, a film lauded for its action choreography.
But it's not just the action that misses the mark, but also the music. The film features songs from Marshmello and Andrea Wasse which are not bad and would fit into a trailer nicely, however here they feel as if they've simply been dropped into the sequences. Not only do they not suit the scenes but when you have a song that’s literally called Going Down Fighting, it feels like its hammering you over the head with its message.
Did you know these guys are fighters? If you did not know, the music will tell you!
I have not read any of the books it is based on, but from what I have seen, the comics have a unique artistic style that the film seemingly fails to recreate. Like the unmemorable action scenes, the directing is nothing special and quite pedestrian. It is a cliché for every superhero film nowadays to be stylish, but the film does not even have that going for it and therefore doesn't stand out.
The film gets somewhat interesting when the characters reveal their backstories and everyone they have lost through the years. The characters are linked to each other by the loss of family members. Even Copley who sets them up is motivated to by the death of his wife. Despite this, no character has a personality that sticks out to keep the viewers caring.
This is especially true for Nicky and Joe who are a couple in the film and but practically have nothing to do.
The Old Guard honestly feels like a pilot episode to a television series; it would be forgivable if it was half an hour-long, but it is two hours too long.
The theme of grief gives promise that the film has a purpose but unfortunately, we just get by the numbers action which in turn gives us nothing more than a generic action flick, constrained by the conventions of the genre.
On the bright side, there was an interesting cliff-hanger and if there is a sequel there is room for improvement. Time will tell, but for now, The Old Guard feels like a boring, overblown test run and when you consider that Netflix is a haven for exciting action films from all over the world, there are far better choices than this.