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The Old Guard – Review: Not great, but the Best we’ll Get

A team of elite warriors… Cursed to roam the earth for eternity…Kicking evil’s ass wherever it shows up… That’s the basic plot of ‘The Old Guard’, Netflix’s new action movie starring Charlize Theron. The movie is based on a graphic novel, which makes a lot of sense. From its eccentric villain and  ‘Avengers’ like cast to its tacky one liners, the movie feels as though each scene was pulled directly from its panel in the graphic novel by the same name.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Greg Rucka, ‘The Old Guard’ positions itself with Charlize Theron as the lead. Theron plays Andy, a woman older than anybody knows. She leads a group of immortals that look to do good in the world. She has become jaded though. She can’t understand why the world isn’t getting better. When Andy discovers that there is a new woman named Nile (played by Kiki Layne) who has become immortal, Andy tracks her down and has her join the team.

The movie reminds me of something that would have been made ten to fifteen years ago. I can picture a teenage me, excited to go see this movie over summer break. I’d walk out of the theater, enthusiastically theorizing what would happen next. About 6 months to a year later I’d learn that the sequel to this movie would never happen (I’m looking at you, Jumper).

I am fairly confident that this would have been the fate of ‘The Old Guard’ if it existed in the pre-COVID-19 world. It is perfectly positioned for a sequel, but doesn’t have enough ‘umph’ to keep fans coming back in a year. If anything, I would be more likely to just read the source material and move on with my life. Even if it existed without this pandemic, it seems to be an outlier. Its graphic novel roots, A-team-like ensemble, and episodic setup seem to position it well to be a television series.  With shows like The Umbrella Academy and a new set of Marvel shows coming to Disney+, why wouldn’t this be set up in a similar fashion? Perhaps there was just not enough source material to maintain an 8 to 10 episode arch.

With people constantly looking for new content to consume and most big-budget movies being pushed back a year, ‘The Old Guard’ was positioned perfectly to do well as a movie straight to streaming.  Although there is some tackiness and frustrating plot points in the movie, it really is an enjoyable summer flick. The one liners throughout the movie or short monologues are so incredibly cheesy, but everything is already so exaggerated that the tacky dialogue works well enough. The villain of the movie is a pharmaceutical CEO named Merrick, played by Harry Melling. Although the evil, eccentric CEO trope is a little over done in movies, I don’t think they could have it any other way. Throughout the film, Merrick sends waves and waves of guards to take out these immortals. He screams about profits and saving the world with medical advancements through monologues that are just a little bit too on-the-nose to feel believable or scary. It is all just a little much, but the ridiculous moral compass (or lack there of) that this CEO emits puts your mind at ease as an absolutely audacious amount of violence and murder is commited by the “good guys.”

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Andy and her crew murder so many people throughout this movie. Nile even comments on and shows concern over it. Will she end up like Andy? Are they actually the good guys? The movie recognizes how messed up it is, but decides that as long as they mention the existence of violence, they don’t need to delve any deeper into the issues surrounding that. Usually this movie seems to know what it is, but to half-ass the justification for murdering dozens of people makes the movie feel weak. Especially when it is contrasted with the rest of the plot constantly delving into wild fight scenes and unrealistic characters.

There is nothing too special about “The Old Guard”. Any other year, I might say skip it and see a Marvel movie or some other action-packed summer blockbuster instead, but we aren’t getting those this year. And to be honest, after all of my complaints, I couldn’t help but enjoy watching Charlize Theron chop through a bunch of people with an ancient axe. So if you’ve got the time, grab some popcorn and enjoy the closest thing we will get to that extravagant, high-budget, over-the-top summer flick.

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