The very talented, and versatile, South African actress Charlize Theron (who we last saw in solid Bombshell), has repeatedly shown her abilities as an action heroine on film.
In Fast & Furious 8, Æon Flux, Atomic Blonde, and not least, Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron has shown that she is fully on par with male action heroes. The hopes for the new Netflix film The Old Guard were thus high, and they were not diminished by the fact that Gina Prince-Bythewood was the director. It’s definitely not Theron’s fault that The Old Guard does not deliver, she can swing a sword, handle a weapon and kick herself in close combat in a both convincing and entertaining way – then it is far worse with the unusually sought after (ridiculous? ) the plot the film is based on.
Based on the comics of Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez, we get to know the war heroine Andy. Andy (Charlize Theron) is something as unique as (almost) immortal. She has obviously been present in all important battles since the time of Christ and has always fought on the good side throughout history. Along the way, she has caught four others of “her kind”, three of whom are still fighting on her side.
You can shoot them, stab them in their bodies and kick them to the hereafter, but their bodies miraculously “heal” themselves. Even a hail of bullets from automatic weapons shakes them off after a few minutes.
After centuries without discovering new cases, the team encounters Marine Nile (KiKi Layne). She does not prove as easy to convince, neither about immortality nor the team’s moral modus operandi.
In the opposite “side of the ring” we get to know the slightly naive philanthropist Copley (Chiwetel “12 Years a Slave” Ejiofor), who is convinced that one can eradicate all disease by extracting the unique DNA from the immortals. Thus, he contacts one of the drug giants, led by the not-so-philanthropic Merrick (Harry Melling). It goes as it must go – to Hell.
The action scenes are consistently excellently choreographed and filmed, in the usual cartoon-violent way. Entertaining and visually appealing; however, in the long run a bit monotonous and tedious. Neither Prince-Bythewood nor Theron are failing on this planet either.
When the story itself we are served is so outrageous, artificially constructed and on top of it all dandered with one-dimensional cardboard figures that we end up irritating ourselves with, much of the film’s premise and right to life collapses.
We do not believe for a second that the obviously intelligent and up-and-coming Copley can be so infantile naive that he, with open eyes, goes in company with the Devil (Merrick). When he then sees how he operates, he continues to deliver the “goods”. A possibly even bigger problem is that Merrick himself is so ridiculously one-dimensionally evil and cynical, without a hint of empathy or compassion.
The film is lifted by brilliant acting from the only “normal” character, Nile, who looks at the absurd world with our eyes. She asks all the “stupid” questions and puts the vigilantes to the wall. Layne is excellent in the role, and brings out the complexity of the character, at the same time as she is as good as a worried family member and tough soldier.
The Old Guard (Photo: Netflix)
Theron is once again excellent as an action heroine, unfortunately she is forced into so much hopeless dialogue and pomp that the character as a whole falls through somewhat. Her side kick is more enjoyable, not least the charming gay couple Joe and Nicky. However, we will only pass by the completely unredeemed end in silence.
All in all, an occasionally hefty action film that is unable to deliver anything much more than a bunch of solid action sequences. 3 completely mediocre stars – and definitely not a movie for everyone.