REVIEW: ‘The Old Guard’ flops despite strong premise

“The Old Guard” is a pretty accurate title because this film doesn’t offer many new tricks.

The movie stars Charlize Theron as Andy, an immortal woman who’s lived for centuries as a warrior. She is the leader of a group of immortal fighters who’ve come together as a group of mercenaries. The film picks up with the team getting hired by Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor),  a man who’s heard of their skills in combat.

However, the group soon learns that they were set up by Copley, who wants to conduct research on the immortals as part of a pharmaceutical scheme. Meanwhile, Nile (KiKi Layne), a U.S. soldier in the Middle East, learns that she too is immortal and ends up joining the mercenaries in their work to evade Copley’s associates.

The idea of immortality and not aging has been done in movies before and it can work quite well. Examples include “Highlander,” “Interview with a Vampire” and the more recent “Age of Adaline.” “The Old Guard,” unfortunately, doesn’t get added to that list.

Despite all of its lore about immortal people and how long these individuals have been around, the film never really does anything all that interesting with the ideas. There are some interesting combat sequences, thanks to the fighters being able to survive gunshots, but outside of the action moments most of the concepts at play with immortality feel kind of stale.

Courtesy Skydance Media, Denver and Delilah Productions, Marc Evans Productions and Netflix.

As a whole, “The Old Guard” comes across more like a run-of-the mill mercenary-for-hire action movie, rather than a modern adventure fantasy flick. The new member joins, has to do some training, and the group has to take down the rich evil businessman who wants to make money.

Which leads to my next point, “Old Guard” is entirely predictable to an extreme fault. There’s a betrayal featured, for example, that is just too damn blatant.

The characters in “Old Guard,” meanwhile, range from average to bad. Harry Melling plays the most generic bad guy in Merrick while Ejiofor is wasted as Copley, who probably could have been a more interesting character.

The other characters in the mercenary team are mostly forgettable and are only distinguishable because of their looks.

Theron does the most with what’s available here, but the character feels a bit too one dimensional. Layne is fine, too, but most of the time her character is just in scenes where people are spouting off exposition to her.

“The Old Guard” isn’t entirely a loss. While the characters are rather generic, the cast for the most part is fine and serviceable for an action flick. The movie does have a fair amount of exciting moments, too, offering some entertainment.

The lulls between the action, though, are rather noticeable. There was potential here but it just feels squandered overall. 2.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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