Sunday, 12 July 2020

The Old Guard (2020)

Netflix for the win. This film is one of the only blockbusters we are getting this summer, and while the powers arent too flashy, this also counts as a superhero film. Based on the comic of the same name that I haven't read. 

Immortality is a curse more than it is a gift. Perhaps no one knows this more than Andy, leader of a group of immortal mercenaries who have unknowingly shaped the course of human history. From their perspectives, Andy is tired feeling that the impact has been too tiny to have been worth it. She reluctantly accepts a new job for her team, composed of Nicky, Booker, and Joe after being recruited by Copley, a former CIA agent to rescue kidnapped schoolgirls in the Sudan. Then, all of them get a flash of a new immortal: Nile, a soldier who is killed in battle and it suddenly brought back to life. They make a note to find her after the job.

However, it is a setup. Copley, who has been aware of who the team really is is working with Merrick, CEO of a pharmaceutical company. He wants to use the team as his test subjects to find a cure for cognitive decline. Obviously, it is not for altruistic reasons. They survive the attempt and set out to stop Merrick and recruit Nile.

From there, the film plays like a typical superhero movie. No big twists, but that's fine. The film knows what it is, though the villain felt lackluster. If Harry Melling had reprised his role as Dudley Dursley it would probably be a bit more engaging. His character was as generic as a Phase 1 marvel villain. The henchmen even more so. He was over the top and had no menacing screen presence so the threat didn't feel particularly high, given the amount of screentime devoted to showing that the team is well skilled in killing people. It helped a bit that the team could feel the pain of being shot and stabbed.

The action sequences were nice and clean. A few quick camera movements here and there, but you could generally see all that was happening. The actors performing their action scenes made it better. Still, by the end of it, none of the action sequences particularly stand out or are necessarily exciting, except for the final action scene involving one of the heroes going through a high story window with a bad guy and the camera follows them down to crash into a car. The music felt awkward to me. It didn't fit the tone the film was going for.

I will say that director Gina Prince-Bythewood isn't gratuitous, and each one of the action scenes is motivated by the narrative. Honestly, look at Gina's past filmography. With the exception of the Cloak and Dagger pilot, you wouldn't think she could do an action-heavy film, but it fits like a glove. There is a compelling story here, with the weight of immortality and loss, but it is hampered down due to its conventional nature.

I wanted to like this film more. Charlize Theron is one of those actors that can jump from genres seamlessly. At least the story has a beginning and an end. Sure, there is a sequel tease, but this is less concerned with setup than other big blockbusters would-be franchise starters. For the talent assembled behind and in front of the camera, I just expected more.

Storywise, It's a meh, and suffers from shockingly low energy and blandness despite all the action sequences, but The Old Guard benefits from slick directing and solid performances.

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