The Old Guard, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and based on the comics by Greg Rucka, is based on a group of immortal warriors who for centuries have saved lives and fought bad guys. Think The Avengers but less shiny and quippy, more world weary, violent and gory like Rambo. Soon they discover the identically gifted Nile (KiKi Layne), an American marine who after getting her throat slit inexplicably survives. Team leader Andy (Charlize Theron) tracks her down and after some resistance, involving bullets and fisticuffs of course, she joins them.
At this point they come to the attention of Merrick (Harry Melling, Harry Potter’s Dudley), the traditional English bad guy and the CEO of a pharmaceutical giant who wants to slice and dice them, find out the secret to their longevity and make loadsa money. So the race is on to escape his evil clutches, foil the fat cats plan to use them as lab rats and save the day.
Despite promise and an intriguing premise it does not deliver. It is awe inspiringly violent with an impressively high body count, but you become numb to it pretty quickly. Especially so seeing as it is wedded to a bland, dull as ditch water plot the twists and turns of which you can easily see coming. It does add a more humane, emotional side to the superhero flick though which is refreshing. You see the melancholy and depression that comes with living for century after century, of trying to do the right thing and being greeted by the worst of humanity time and time again. As Freddie Mercury once pined who wants to live forever. Often though these moments just feel tacked on, to fill some air time in between the shooting, hacking and slashing.
It is not all bad. Nile is the best character here and her initial sense of shock, bewilderment and loneliness is handled well, you are rooting for her. Joe and Nicky (Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli) add a genuine sense of heart, their love for each other is strong and they are treated as equal members of the team – not stereotyped, put on a pedestal and made a point out of which is good to see. Charlize Theron puts in a fine, arse kicking performance – if you have watched Mad Max: Fury Road or Atomic blonde you expect nothing less – unfortunately hampered by the forgetful story and dialogue. Harry Melling’s showing as the selfish and snivelling villain is hilariously overdone, ala Ben Mendelsohn in Ready Player One and Robin Hood, and surprisingly engaging.
Whilst the attempted new take on the superhero genre – one with gore, fed up heroes and an emotional core – may be admirable it does not come off, and by the time you have witnessed the franchise building ending you will have already forgotten it.