RELEASED: July 10th 2020
DISTRIBUTED BY: Netflix
DIRECTED BY: Gina Prince-Bythewood
WRITTEN BY: Greg Rucka
PRODUCED BY: David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Charlize Theron, AJ Dix, Beth Kono & Marc Evans
MUSIC BY: Volker Bertelmann & Dustin O’Halloran
STARRING: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Anamaria Marinca & Joey Ansah
REVIEW: One of Netflix’s newest films, The Old Guard is based on a comic of the same name, and written by the writer of said comic, which is cool.
The film follows a group of four immortal warriors, who undertake contracts to help better the world. However, in the modern day, with cameras everywhere, their secret is becoming harder than ever to keep. So when someone obtains footage of the group surviving a firing squad, these immortals have to fight to restore their anonymity, all the while teaching a new member of the group their ways.
Remember in the earlier X-Men movies how Wolverine’s healing factor was a big deal? He’d get shot, and he’d take a few moments to get it together. You’d see his body trying to sort itself out. But then, a few movies later, by around Origins I think it was, he could just shrug off anything that came at him? It made everything a lot less interesting – both visually and narratively.
In that way, The Old Guard hearkens back to the older X-Men films. They are immortal, yes, but every knife, every gunshot, every explosion has an impact. They don’t just shrug things off and keep going. The effects showing their healing is well done and visceral. The tension, and the danger, is there, despite what the premise may have you believe.
They’re immortal, not invincible, and it’s in this study of what immortality would actually be like that the film finds its strengths.
The small details, such as avoiding their photo being taken, not knowing what medicine to buy for someone who needs it or their unique stance on relationships that last longer than a lifetime are what make this film stand out among your standard superhero/action movie crowd.
The action, similarly, is well constructed. It’s fluid and brutal – extremely well choreographed, making each fight feel unique and entertaining. The way everything flows allows you take in every little detail, while also moving at a rapid enough pace to hold your interest.
Unfortunately, while that may be true of the fighting sequences, it’s not neccessarily true of the movie as a whole. At just over two hours, this film feels a fair bit longer than it needs to be, and that’s not helped by the fact that a lot of the broader story beats feel like action tropes you’ve seen a million times before.
A lot of the characters are single named and one-note, with some really suffering from lack of character development. The butch mercenary. The slimy businessman. The reluctant new recruit. The character work here can occasionally be the weakest part of the film, as the focus seems to be more on the aforementioned smaller details about the world around them and the mythology of their powers. Fortunately, this is saved somewhat by strong performances by most of the cast. While not all of them, especially those on the villainous side, manage to elevate their characters beyond what’s on the page, the majority of the leads all manage to find the best in their roles. They’re all, at the very least, entertaining to watch.
Another bonus of the cast is how diverse it is, especially for a superhero / action movie. The gender ratio is pretty even, and the cast come from a healthy mix of ethnic backgrounds. It also has two of our action heroes in a gay relationship, one that doesn’t play stereotypes and doesn’t seem like it’s checking a quota (The Rise of Skywalker), who share one scene that is so poignant writer Greg Rucka had it written into his contract that it had to be carried over from his comics, so props to him. It’s a shame this sort of thing is still so uncommon in 2020, but it’s nice that it’s here.
What’s also diverse, but in all the wrong ways, is the soundtrack. An unpleasant mismatch of songs that only seem to have been chosen because the lyrics relate to what’s going on in a given scene. Songs ripped from offensively average teen romance dramas seem to spring out of nowhere, and really dampen the exciting action vibe the film is going for. Like, tonally, the film seems to get a bit confused every now and then when it comes to music in particular.
Still, on the whole, music aside, it is an enjoyable watch. Will I watch it again? Maybe, but probably no time soon. Would I watch a sequel? I think so, and I may even check out the comics. The overall story is an interesting one, it’s just been hampered somewhat in the translation from comic to film.
All-in-all, I give The Old Guard: