The Old Guard (2020)

Rates: * * 1/2

Why Did I Watch It? Animated discussion of it on the Fighting in the War Room podcast.

Cast, crew, etc.

Trailer

A group of people become immortal for no reason. They can sense each other, and some of them connect, become friends. As the centuries pass, they outlive their loved ones, and watch everything they care about fade into history. They also develop their combat skills. In the modern era they live as elite mercenaries for hire, righting wrongs and inadvertablty becoming the target of big pharma.

Kindof like ‘Interview with a Vampire’, if the vampires trained to become super soldiers.

A fairly basic, middle of the road actioner with a supernatural element, that seems to have gotten some watchers pretty excited. Based on a comic book series by Greg Rucka (who also wrote the screenplay), this film seems mainly designed to provide Netflix with a quick and easy franchise. There are hints by the bucket load that this is only the beginning, and the attention this has engendered (undoubtedly helped by a lockdown desire for new, undemanding content) seems to mean that we will be living with The Old Guard-ers for a while.

Charlize Theron is solid in the lead, although it is hard not to think that she is just doing warmed over Furiosa. But she does have a good relationship with the newest member of the immortal team: Nile, well played by Kikki Freeman. As Theron shows her the ropes and gives her the benefit of her many centuries of experience, a brittle mother-daughter bond slowly develops between the two, which has a little emotional weight.

Nothing else provided this for me. There are flashbacks that show some of the people that the characters have lost over their very long lives, but none of this is ever more than sketched, and so has zero impact. Likewise, I was not invested in the modern day romance between two of the mercenaries; Joe and Nicky. There is not enough time or imagination alloted to this for it to feel real, and the actors (Marwen Kanzari and Luca Marinelli: both ok) are left rummaging through some obvious film relationship cliches.

They NEVER found her?

And there is some stuff that is plain goofy. Theron’s character was friends with… Rodin? I actually giggled. And they could NEVER find the hapless immortal imprisoned on the bottom of the ocean? They had a very long time to do this, and are meant to be good at everything. Harry Mellick’s villain, the evil big company CEO with a taste for torture, is so ludicrously over the top he would not have been out of place in ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ (which I had watched the night before).

The film is competantly staged by Gina Prince-Blythewood, a director best known for her sensitive dramas (most notably ‘Love and Basketball’). She does seem like an odd choice for this material, and I was not sensing her imprint on it much. It looks, and feels, like any one of an endless number of action films churned out in the 90s.

A slight and pretty forgettable programmer.

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