The Old Guard Release Poster

Movie Review: The Old Guard

Overview:

The Old Guard? How old is she?”. If you are talking about Charlize Theron, she is 45, give or take. If you are referring to Andromache of Sc*t*ia (undisclosed to prevent spoilers), the character that she plays in The Old Guard, I reckon that the answer cannot be attained as easily, because that very question itself is a seedling that director Gina Prince-Bythewood intends to plant into the minds of the audience.

In The Old Guard, Andromache of Sc*t*ia, or better known as her modernized name, Andy, is one of the immortals in a present-day group of mercenaries. Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), and lovers Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), possess the same ability as Andy, and four of them have been laying low for a long time to avoid detection across the globe. Though chosen not to reveal themselves to the outside world, they have been secretly fighting alongside mortals, helping to steer humanity towards the greater good. However, the hide-and-seek game that they are playing was given a good stir, when their freakish ability gets discovered, and coincides with the arrival of a mysterious new member (KiKi Layne).

Alongside Extraction, The Old Guard is one of Netflix’s film-offerings that has successfully accumulated a significant hype upon its release. At the very center of the hype is a steely-looking Theron, rocking a boyish, black haircut, which both looks alluring enough to draw men and dangerous enough to keep them away. That look seems to be a pretty good compromise between her Atomic Blonde looks and another character of hers which is even more iconic; Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

The Old Guard Andy Charlize Theron battling Nile KiKi Layne
Source: Netflix

It is not difficult to see why Prince-Bythewood wanted to tap into Theron’s talent to bring The Old Guard to life; Theron has proven herself from time to time to have a great range, both emotionally and physically. The woman can play almost anything; from a glamorous, evil queen who likes to talk to mirrors, all the way to a hot-blooded war captain without an arm.

I think that it was her performance as Furiosa which had nailed her the lead in The Old Guard. After all, there are many similarities between Furiosa and Andromache; the latter feels very much like a wiser and calmer Furiosa. Both have a great tendency to exhibit violence towards men (c’mon, really, all the baddies in the film are men, except one), and this is clearly one of The Old Guard’s selling points. 

The film instantly primes the audience with some pretty graphic violence, right at the point of intro. I really mean graphic, because it involves individuals getting gunned down in cold blood, shown in great detail, no less. It signals the viewers that there is still a lot more violence coming their way, because they are dealing with an old b*tch that already forgets how it feels like the first time she killed someone. 

On one hand, this is the area that Theron shines, since her character seemed to pull off all the killing blows without a second thought, as she should be. The action choreography is crisp, intense but occasionally lacks speed; but the fact that Theron’s face can be seen in most of the frames when action is happening speaks numbers. It suggests that Theron’s stunt double might face an imminent pay-cut, or that Theron started to worship Jackie Chan in secret. 

The Old Guard Charlize Theron with ancient Scythian axe
Source: Netflix

Ironically, on the other hand, as the film ages from the intro towards the finale, the action sequences lose the majority of its boldness and creativity. The execution feels somewhat careful and timid if compared to the earlier moves, and it remains a huge question to me on why the crew did not set up the climax to accommodate for the protagonists to wield their ‘signature weapons’. 

Back to the age game, there is an old saying that you do not ask a lady about her age directly to her face, and I think it still holds true. Majority of the ladies out there will face complexities computing and calculating their possible answers in mind. Well, unless, that you are Andromache and you can nonchalantly answer with, “I forgot”. 

One can never see the age-game that’s being played by Price-Bythewood, until the revelation scene in The Old Guard gives that person the creeps and goose-bumps. Of course, it is not guaranteed, and your experiences may vary; but unless you are a history expert, I opine that you will agree that it’s a game well played by the director. The age-revelation part is easily the most interesting and memorable scene in The Old Guard.

But still, sometimes, the concept is good, and the product may be brilliant, but the way it is packaged and delivered to you may feel entirely different. Of course, like Extraction, I approached The Old Guard with suppressed, but apparent optimism. I can still vouch that Extraction is meant to be seen on screens larger than any of our walls could permit, but I can’t say the same for The Old Guard

The Old Guard Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli sniping scene
Source: Netflix

There is just something off with the frame rates, color tones, or depth of field, and as much as I tried to calibrate my perspective, I just could not define The Old Guard as cinema. No, no, not the way that Martin Scorsese dismisses Marvel films as ‘not cinema’, it’s simply that The Old Guard does not have the usual characteristics of the films that I usually see on the big-screen. 

But damn, to be utterly honest, it feels like I was watching a series. I found this statement to be agonizing, because The Old Guard is such a well-rounded film that is hard to fault with. The decision to develop the film with Theron at the front of the story-line is easily the most rewarding one. Her performance is the major force that keeps the film rolling, especially at certain points where the story is on the verge of falling into hiatus. Yes, a span of 125 minutes is a little too long, even for The Old Guard, but with Theron seemingly performing faithfully for each of her scenes, I was kept adequately occupied. 

Still, that does not negate the strong series-vibe that constantly radiates through  the film. This feeling only grew stronger as the movie throttled into the final resolve, because the timid choreography which I have mentioned earlier was largely due to somewhat restrained action, and the hesitance to blow up or break those delicate (or expensive) set pieces. Again, this is usually associated with TV series, which have the tendency to keep everything filmed intact to avoid blowing a hole through the producers’ pockets. 

The Old Guard Band of Immortal Mercenaries in Black Suits
Source: Netflix

Perhaps, the score is yet another underlying factor which contributes to the vibe, because as far as I can tell, a teenage girl’s Spotify list does not sound cinematic in any way. Edgy? Definitely, but for a film that centers around immortals, I secretly expect something that sounds a little more exotic or ancient. 

Verdict:

The Old Guard scored it big with Charlize Theron and her potent performance at the forefront, while Matthias Schoenaerts’ and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s captivating on-screen presence give further merit to this unusual immortal-mercenary flick. Undeniably, The Old Guard packs a lot of intense action, twists and Theron-badasserie under its belt, and while the film’s attempt to line itself with supernatural powers instead of the overused superhero genre is highly applaudable, it is unfortunately enveloped in a deep, unmistakable TV-series ambience. Of course, this might not be an absolute deal-breaker to some, but may suffocate others, by large film fans who have been craving for theatrical blockbusters in this blockbuster-deprived season.–The Film Addict


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