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The Old Guard: Action trumps plot

In his 12th century work Posthomerica, Byzantine poet and grammarian John Tzetzes lists the Amazon warrior women who fell at Troy. Among the slain Amazon women was queen Andromache, famous for having previously fought Hercules in a non-fatal encounter. The Old Guard Kyriacos Nicolaou @nicolaouKyri

In his 12th century work Posthomerica, Byzantine poet and grammarian John Tzetzes lists the Amazon warrior women who fell at Troy. Among the slain Amazon women was queen Andromache, famous for having previously fought Hercules in a non-fatal encounter.

Fast forward to 2017 and San Franciscan writer Greg Rucka adopts Andromache for his 2017 comic book mini-series The Old Guard, expanding on the notion that Andromache survived Troy through an ability to heal and come back from even the most brutal of injuries.

And now comes the film version released last month on Netflix. The Old Guard is an action film with sci-fi and superhero elements starring Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Harry Melling, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Luca Marinelli and Marwan Kenzari. The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, an experienced director, screenwriter and producer.

The Old Guard’s premise is simple. A group of imperishable mercenaries are seeking revenge for a mission gone wrong. At first, our team of seemingly reluctant heroes become aware of another person with the same gift of exaggeratingly restorative powers. This is so rare that the team decides that this person must be contacted and brought into their group.

At the same time, the team’s extraordinary abilities makes them the target of that most villainous of organisations: a pharmaceutical company. This element provides a relatively plausible starting point before the over-the-top evil is introduced. Remember, even in comic book form The Old Guard is still a relatively nascent tale.

The plot is along the lines of X-Men meets Blade. In regards to the first one, there are similar themes being explored in this film. Exceptional skills that defy reason and logic being perceived as both a blessing and a curse; unique individuals finding the world a lonelier place because of their abilities; the moral quandary of what one does with their skills; the morality of unsolicited assistance; the acceptance of death and friendship among outcasts. In regards to the second film, Blade, it’s somewhat more simple. Swords, double-headed axes and bullets. Lots and lots of bullets. The double-headed axe with an incorporated Celtic cross in its design is a straight nod to the comic books.

But the film touches on topics with serious heft behind them. Immortality might be a less straightforward affair than one would think. People you love see you remaining ageless and in perfect health. The world changes around you while you carry centuries’ worth of experiences and memories. Though these are weighty points, the film doesn’t particularly explore them through plot.

It mostly manoeuvres through expository chunks of dialogue with the occasional flashback thrown into the mix. However, the little backstory segments from past centuries that we receive almost feel like visual aids rather than genuine sections of the film. Yet some of these flashbacks are more interesting than the present day the film is mostly concerned with.

The action sequences are well-choreographed but most of the characters aren’t particularly memorable.

Many of the attempts at adding depth to them come across as slightly forced, but the actors do what they can with the material they’ve been provided with. Charlize Theron does a solid job in her role as Andy. If nothing else, the movie overall serves as a fine vehicle to solidify her position amidst her contemporaries in the action genre.



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