There’s something tired about Gina Prince-Blythewood’s “The Old Guard,” yet another big-screen comic-book adaptation that admittedly has a nice twist on the genre yet mostly just goes through the motions.
While Prince-Blythewood proves adept at rendering the requisite heroics with an eye for clarity, if not style, the script by Greg Rucka, based on his graphic novel, is a padded affair, containing far too many superfluous fights and action sequences that do nothing but hinder the development of the story’s intriguing ideas.
Andy (Charlize Theron) is a warrior with a secret — she’s immortal. While she and her three cohorts — Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) — can be killed and feel pain; ultimately, they lurchingly come back to life, healing with a rapidity that defies logic.
Why they would spend centuries as warriors, soldiers or mercenaries, occupations in which great suffering and grisly demises are part of the job, is one of the many questions viewers may ask that Rucka is hoping you won’t.
The group’s covert activities haven’t been as hidden as they thought, as they are being tracked by the minions of Steven Merrick (Harry Melling), a pharmaceutical CEO who suspects their DNA may unlock the cure to ending diseases and even bring immortality to all of humanity and wants to be the first to synthesize it and profit from it.
All of this is facilitated by James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a former CIA agent who has his own reasons for wanting to see Merrick succeed.
As if this wasn’t enough, there’s a new immortal on the block, Nile (Kiki Layne), a Marine who recovers after having her neck slashed in Afghanistan and has many questions as to just why she can heal from massive wounds and still manage to kick butt like nobody’s business.
As you can tell, there are quite a few moving parts in Rucka’s script, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if any of them were in the least bit interesting.
A by-the-numbers approach hangs over the entire production, as if Rucka had a checklist he was consulting so he would include the proper number of fight scenes at predictable intervals, all of them done competently but with little flair.
Theron prides herself in having made herself a fixture of the action genre, and to be sure, she is a formidable presence.
However, as happened with Stallone, Schwarzenegger and others before her, she’s become a parody of herself, her tough-gal posture a bit too obvious, her pithy quips a bit too tired and her action sequences a bit too choreographed.
Theron seems tired here, going through the motions, lacking the enthusiasm she showed in “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Atomic Bomb.”
Regrettably, Layne seems to be following in her footsteps, delivering a performance consisting of wooden line readings and obvious choices.
What’s so frustrating is that you can see a good movie lurking amid the detritus.
The premise of eternal warriors having lived through every major conflict that’s occurred over the last 2,000 years is an intriguing one.
Delving into their psyches to examine how they’ve been affected by these experiences is briefly touched upon but never delved into as it should be.
Instead, Prince-Blythewood and Rucka opt for the obvious, producing yet another standard actioner, letting the opportunity to create something special pass them by.
Why delve into character when blowing stuff up real good is so much easier?
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