Review: The Old Guard
You know you're watching a good action movie when the quiet moments are just as effective as the fights and set pieces.
While the choreography is great, one of The Old Guard's most notable moments is a declaration of love - and it is one that sticks with you.
Currently showing on Netflix, the film is about a team of four mercenaries who are centuries old and very close to being immortal.
Handily for a quartet often finding themselves in a hail of bullets, they can heal from mortal wounds – but they're also aware that this special ability could cut out at any moment.
Based on the excellent graphic novel of the same name, it would be easy to make the concept very pop and campy.
A touch of Highlander. A pinch of X-Men. But much better than both.
But the writer of the graphic novel, Greg Rucka, also wrote the screenplay, making the right changes for it to work on film, and thankfully, avoids too much explanation about the superpowers.
They can't die and they are not thrilled about it.
As such, Rucka also makes sure that the tone stays. Immortality is not fun and a lonely affair.
Which is where the declaration of love by Marwan Kenzari gains such power. Once you find that someone, you hang on to them for centuries.
The close-knit nature of the team comes out in the lithe fight choreography too as their movements blend into each other like some psychotic dance troupe.
You really feel that they have fought together for an eternity - to the point they finish each other's bludgeoning.
Charlize Theron plays the group leader Andy who is so old there are Greek myths about her.
She seeks out a recent addition to the ever-living ranks in a Marine named Nile (Kiki Layne) while trying to avoid Harry Melling's pharma bro billionaire who wants to exploit the team's longevity for profit.
Theron is fantastic and stakes another claim as one of the best action stars around. The difference here is that she carries a resignation of someone who has seen and done it all thousands of times – to the extent that she is a thousand moves ahead. She has all the moves, but they're performed more with a sigh than a flourish, as though she's disappointed that her adversaries aren't more original in their attacks.
If there is a downside, it needs the sequel it teases to arrive very quickly.
Maybe The Old Guard would have worked better as a TV series.
It is a story that feels cruelly constrained by the two-hour runtime.