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Review: 'The Old Guard' (2020) Dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

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


Immortality has it's price, especially for Charlize Theron and her team who have battled across the ages to preserve a fragile peace that is at risk of collapsing...

Immortal warrior Andromache of Scythia (Theron) has lived for millennia fighting evil. With fellow immortals from all eras and walks of life, her small team fight the good fight for those who need help.

But Andromache, "Andy", and her team are betrayed on a mission for former CIA agent James Copley (Ejiofor) and hunted down by a ruthless pharmaceutical CEO out for their immortal power.

With new immortal Nile (Layne) recruited to help, Andy races to stay one step ahead of their hunters, while learning that Copley is out for a much bigger outcome that may change the world forever...

'John Wick' has a lot to answer for since Chad Stahelski brought him to the big screen in 2014. From the moment Keanu Reeves fused balletic gun-play with seamless hand-to-hand combat that made 'The Matrix' look like baby food, action cinema would change drastically. It would be seen as an art form if done right, and most major action films since have tried to imitate and replicate the effectiveness of such action.

Following on from the blistering 'Extraction', Netflix presents another bang-bang-shoot-em-up ride with 'The Old Guard', fronted by the ever-dependable Charlize Theron. Only this time, it lacks the thrill and visual excitement of the former to become a bog standard sci-fi/super-hero thriller that takes no real chances or risks. 

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, known more for her drama films and TV work, fuses the healing powers of Wolverine into the bodies of mercenaries to present a rag-tag team of modern day Highlanders who cannot die.

Our heroes are fragile, devoid of any super-hero existence or sugar-coated gloss. They live through time, earning all sorts of emotional scars and haunting memories, but they continue fighting to keep evil at bay. But as evil has never been vanquished, their fight continues.

Sadly, with such a simple premise - Theron and her team are double-crossed on a mission and set out for revenge - this turns into a big of a slog for a 2hr run time. It takes a good hour or more before some viable threat is presented. All the fancy fights and small action set-pieces carry no real sense of danger due to their immortality, so nothing feels necessary and nobody feels at risk. It is instead a moral journey about what keeps immortals human, and the various journeys each warrior has been on.

Even relative newcomer Kiki Layne just ticks the box as "new recruit struggling to find her place", and Theron is the caring "mother" figure, since she has been around since the time of Greek myth. And while Theron is a more than capable actress, she excelled more as an action lead in 2017s 'Atomic Blonde'. Here, her character Andromache of Scythia (Andy for short), is a skillful warrior but again never really excels with the premise of her situation, which soon turns into a predictable journey that audiences will see coming.

It's Ejiofor who has the most appealing story, and most satisfying journey of them all, and you feel his character goes through the most. It only becomes slightly immersive when Ejiofor helps narrate some of the effects the immortals have had through history, making it apparent that small deeds done resonate through generations to save thousands. It becomes the story of that bad guys may not be all bad, and the good guys are simply slaves to their own power.

With the combat inspired by the 'John Wick' movies (as most are these days), everything just feels too underwhelming when what's done is done. Even the techno-synth score by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran is less than exciting and fails to be anything absorbing.

'The Old Guard' is a less than exciting or memorable film based around myth and lore with a touch of what makes us human thrown in for good measure.

'The Old Guard' is a Skydance Media production for Netflix.

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