I’ve come to realize there are two methods of storytelling pretty much all forms of entertainment go for – Rough or Easy. There’s a middle between them, but basically, Rough is where the writers take chances with their material which can cause deep thought, anger, or amazement. Easy is where the story plays it safe by giving fans what they are hoping for and expect without trying to create a work of art hoping to change the world. The Old Guard is definitely in the latter.
Based on a comic book I never knew about, Charlize Theron plays Andromache of Sythia as the big leader in this film, but you can call her Andy. She and three guys seem to at first be just independent undercover vigilantes. Andy even sneakily deletes a selfie from a group of tourists where she was accidentally in the background. And the four of them head to a base where a bunch of kids who were abducted are said to be. But they’re ambushed; ambushed just like Bonnie and Clyde in their car. Their story is not over, however. They’ve been there before. They heal from their wounds. Not only that, they don’t age. So, really, they’re immortal. And old. Andy says when asked how old she is, her response is, “Too old.”
Then for the first time in centuries, they realize through a dream they all have (this is how the system works), that someone else named Nile has died and was reborn as one of them. And once they go get her, they my finally all be exposed to people who want to get their hands on them.
Another thing about the Rough-Easy scale; generally, the more rough a movie or book is, the more likely I’ll either be absolutely disgusted or immersed by it. And the more easy it is, the bigger chance I probably won’t love it but probably won’t hate it either. For the most part The Old Guard’s plot is vastly familiar; hidden outsiders who save the world under our noses, exposure, greedy government, and lots of guns that are probably heavy and hard to shoot until you use them at least twice a week for a few long years. And though Harry Melling plays his role well, the role he plays is just another generic never-satisfied brat who probably inherited his company.
And I at first became uncertain of the production when once again the American army is in Afghanistan looking for a terrorist, and it’s set up to look like a terrifying place. Right now my family and I are watching the new Jack Ryan TV show starring John Krasinski, and even though it’s well-produced and suspenseful, the production falls into the stale but persisting sense of relentless racism towards the Middle East. Thankfully this film doesn’t stay there for too long. But then at the end there are two things I didn’t find to make sense. To avoid spoilers, one involves Nile’s situation with her family and another involves an unnecessary team decision.
But there is something that boosts it into a genuine recommendation, and that is its diverse band of sidekicks behind Andy. Nile is a brave, independent and compassionate young African-American woman, Booker is French, Joe is Muslim, Nicky is Italian, and Joe and Nicky are gay without their sexuality defining them or having a humungous say in the plot when it didn’t need to. Most ragtag action films would just have a bunch of familiar Caucasian American male faces cracking profanity substituting for jokes and busting bad guys whilst shooting slurs like your favourite video game hero, and most would certainly not include two men in love.
And it’s not just that. I have yet to ever be critical of Charlize Theron, an actress every movie on the face of the planet should be grateful to have. Even though it sometimes seems she’s underacting on dramatical tension in this feature, the fact she must be about a thousand years old and must have undergone so much abuse and lethal (in a way) wounds over that time would probably make her as someone who doesn’t show much fear, but still has vulnerabilities when she must confront them. KiKi Layne ends up perfect for Nile. Her performance always feels genuine, and she gives the sense of being a badass from her military training and desire to help people but has the same vulnerabilities as everyone would have in her sitch. I also didn’t recognize any of the other actors in the team, and they all did wonderfully.
The flashbacks are very memorable, especially a torture scene so unimaginably brutal it stands alongside the torture of an Evil Dead movie or the Brazen Bull itself. And I hope if they make another film, which they leave a cliffhanger for, that more of them can arrive. The basis is, if you can allow its unoriginal storyline to not bother you and you just sit back, The Old Guard is an enjoyable two hours. The result is familiar but welcomingly familiar if you let it.