The Old Guard [5/10]

The opening scene of “The Old Guard,” a superhero tale with a twist, is kinetic and suffused with dark, mysterious atmosphere. Gina Prince-Bythewood, the director, unveils a brutal, flowing battle scene in which our heroes, a band of four headed by charismatic Andy (played with gravitas by Charlize Theron), are cut down in a trap and then reveal that they can be reborn from death, immortal souls who have roamed the earth as a tiny band for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Soon thereafter, a fifth, startled team member comes onto the scene, and then the plot ratchets up into a story of a Bond-style villain seeking to “harvest” their DNA. The central conceit of The Old Guard—historically meddling immortals—is a sweet concept and I only wish this movie did it justice. How one might convey the world weariness of immortals amongst mortal humanity … well, that’s the filmic dilemma, for superhero movies are always finely balanced between display and essence. I only wish better lead characters could have been cast for this knife edge task. Charlize Theron sometimes does a fine job of displaying the ennui at the heart of the immortals, only to occasionally seem ham-fisted, and the other four fail to convey immortality in any serious sense. Don’t get me wrong: The Old Guard rockets along, with brilliantly choreographed action scenes of frightening violence, and the unwinding of the plot is sure-handed, so you won’t waste an evening if superhero gymnastics turn you on as much as they do me. But the overall effect is of ham-fisted awkwardness, and when the climax foreshadowed a sequel, I could not help thinking, “no, not for me.”

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