The Old Guard

The Old Guard ★★

There's nothing worse than a movie with a high-concept that is afraid to fully embrace the outlandish nature of said concept. The Old Guard is just that, a movie that for the entire runtime displays a maddening skill of tiptoeing around potentially good popcorn material. Given the type of movie this is, one would at the very least expect some good action scenes that make imaginative use of the characters' immortality. Instead we're handed action scenes which are in part serviceable but mostly bland, generic and actually hard to come by.

A good reason why this should have gone to some crazier places is because there are hardly any stakes. If we consider the fact that the main characters are immortal, there has to be something else other than the possibility of them dying that can keep us invested in the story. They come up with a few things but they are handled in a disappointingly generic fashion as well, rigorously sticking to a script formula that isn't tinkered with at all: Charlize Theron's loss of powers (we've never seen this one before), her disillusionment concerning her role in the world (or this one), some drama inside the group of immortals (or this one...) and a threat in the form of a pharmaceutical company (the main villain is so obnoxious). If you have close to no stakes, you might as well go bananas with the action but apparently that is asking too much. The only saving grace comes from the acting department, as all major roles are played well above the level this sort of movie requires. Except for that main bad guy, he's so obnoxious; at least he embraces it, pity the film-makers weren't on the same page with him, we could've had some fun here.

Do yourself a favor and check out (or rewatch) Takashi Miike's Blade of the Immortal instead. Now there's a movie that takes its ridiculous concept, commits to it and does something creative with it. That one delivers big time in terms of action and it looks amazing, not to mention it actually has a thing or two to say about mortality, it has fleshed out characters that were given arcs and it even has a genuinely emotional story to tell amidst all the violence and chaos.

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