We all remember "Highlander". It was an instant classic, memorable, heartfelt, romantic, exciting, fantastic soundtrack....... Well "The Old Guard" is its antithesis. Its a brittle tale of justification for globalist Western meddling, social justice, politics of sexuality and more. Once again, the story has been mostly fogotten. It wanders around a bit, has a predictable twist and finally falls out of a window, literally. The action scenes are fine, as is the acting but these are only ingredients and in this case the "mix" is very wrong. I hope and pray this is the first and last of these. That said, it looks like they are gearing up for a second one. I can only imagine what that will be like....... 2/10.
If you enjoy reading my Spoiler-Free reviews, please follow my blog @ https://www.msbreviews.com Netflix isn't exactly known for its original action films, and when these occasionally appear, most tend to be more comedic than focusing on the action itself (Spenser Confidential, 6 Underground). However, 2020 seems to be the year chosen by Netflix to surprise its viewers with ruthless, bloody, violent action. A few months ago, Extraction became the studio's best original action flick and one of the better movies ever released from the streaming network. Therefore, my expectations for The Old Guard were reasonably high, having in mind that it has Charlize Theron as the protagonist, and Greg Rucka as the sole screenwriter (he's one of the two creators of the original comics the film is based on). Overall, it's a pretty decent movie that could have been a lot better had it reached the potential that it possesses. First of all, any film that focuses more on starting a franchise than actually being a good movie sets itself up to fail miserably. Fortunately, even though Gina Prince-Bythewood's feature does establish saga-worthy lore, it never makes it its number one priority. In fact, until the penultimate shot of the film, I was genuinely worried that a certain storyline wasn't going to have closure due to the "we need to save something for the sequel" mentality… However, Greg Rucka clearly knows what he needed to write for the first installment of a possible franchise, and what he needed to save for the following chapters. The story is truly intriguing and mysterious, owning deep and complex mythology that doesn't have unambiguous answers. One of the aspects I love the most about Rucka's narrative is how it balances the abstract and philosophical approach to immortality. As weird as it might sound, immortality is depicted in such a believable manner even though everything about it feels unbelievably crazy. Even logically, all the questions one can have regarding "how immortal can they be?" are answered in some shape or form, so it's evident that Rucka wanted to make immortality something incredibly real and well-grounded. Charlize Theron's character gets her past very well-explored through flashbacks and a couple of captivating dialogues with her team. Andy is a tremendously easy character for the viewer to root for, and her "badassery" definitely helps strengthen that emotional connection. Kiki Layne is a major surprise for me, she delivers an impressive performance! I missed out on If Beale Street Could Talk, so this makes my first time watching her on the "big screen", and I can't' wait to see what she does next. Her character, Nile, is also quite interesting to learn about. She has to make extremely challenging life decisions for such a young woman, making her a candidate to steal Andy's spotlight in the following movies (which are undoubtedly happening). I wish that the screenplay packed less forced exposition, but I do understand the difficulties in explaining so many "rules" about this world without having a few dialogues exclusively meant to deliver that information. Rucka and Gina could have made better narrative decisions concerning a few storylines. Some sequences carry an immense potential that is never reached, leaving me wanting a bit more from a particular character or a specific subplot. The action is definitely above average, but it's far from the quality of Extraction, for example. Some action set pieces are really well-choreographed and well-edited (Terilyn A. Shropshire), but most employ the generic "punch and cut quickly" style. As nitpicky as it might be, for a rated-R film, the gunshots didn't have the visual and audible impact that they should have, being awkwardly unflashy throughout most of the runtime. In the end, the action is entertaining enough to make any viewer grab the popcorn bucket and eat everything. Nevertheless, two aspects heavily damage the film. The song selection is as cringe-worthy as it can be. I'm not entirely sure if the score composers (Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O'Halloran) are the ones to blame, but the excruciating insertion of an electropop song every ten minutes, including mid-action, ruins the dark, somber tone that the movie possesses, and it distracts from the actual fighting. The other aspect has to do with the "villain". I can't delve into details, but Gina and Rucka could have created a phenomenal antagonist whose moral motivations would resonate with every viewer, but instead, the "I want money" motive made the cut. All in all, The Old Guard continues Netflix's trend of original action films boasting riveting set pieces, even though it doesn't quite reach Extraction's level. Some sequences are indeed well-choreographed and well-edited, but most feel simply generic and *just* fun enough. As one of the creators of the original comics, Greg Rucka delivers a screenplay packed with intriguing lore, which is well-explored and well-established for (what should be) the first movie in a new franchise. With the remarkable direction of Gina Prince-Bythewood, the main focus goes to making a good film instead of trying to get in as much information as possible. Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne offer excellent performances as the two well-developed and emotionally compelling protagonists. However, the cringe-worthy use of electropop songs throughout the whole film damages many moments. For a story containing a moral dilemma at its center, the choice of a money-driven villain feels disappointing and extremely unfulfilling, having in mind the antagonist's potential. It's an entertaining action flick, no doubt about it… but it carried so much potential that it's a shame it didn't reach half of it. Rating: B-
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