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Review: 'The Old Guard'

I’ve been a fan of Charlize Theron since I first saw her in 2 Days in the Valley (1996). She is stunningly beautifully and incredibly talented.

While she’s played a range of characters over the years, she seems to be gravitating toward becoming a kick-ass action hero.

Her career may be paralleling that of Keanu Reeves who has settled into playing a killing machine character that made The Matrix trilogy and the John Wick series worth watching.

Likewise, Charlize Theron has gravitated toward a similar character in movies like Aeon Flux (2005), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Atomic Blonde (2017). Like Keanu, she’s in great shape and has trained extensively in order to serve up many of the martial arts actions without the use of a stunt double.

She’s even sustained some injuries on set doing those furious fight scenes. She’s in a class of her own, and not just another proverbial pretty face.

Put it this way: I’d never want to piss her off.

Her name above the title of The Old Guard was all that was required to hook my attention. While the title didn’t exactly grab me, her name did.

It’s the story of a handful of centuries old soldiers, battling to make the world a better place, who appear to be incapable of dying.

The opening scene shows Theron’s character Andy, lifeless on the floor grotesquely riddled with bullet wounds, including one through her gorgeous face.

It’s a Sunset Boulevard (1950) kind of opening plot twist in which you later find out the main character is already dead when the movie begins.

We soon discover that death only lasts a few minutes before Andy and her dead comrades resurrect and resume fighting. It’s something that they have done countless times before.

Of course, their ability to cheat death comes to the attention of a young maniacal founder of a Big Pharma company who wants to capture these warriors and subject them to torturous examination in order to learn the secrets of their DNA and genetic coding.

Immortality, as you might expect, would be the world’s greatest scientific breakthrough and business opportunity.

I’d like to say for a moment that if the age-old pursuit of immortality seems far-fetched and purely the stuff of science fiction, I’d encourage you to read the new book Immortality, Inc.: Renegade Science, Silicon Valley Billions, and the Quest to Live Forever by my friend, Chip Walter.

You’ll be amazed at the mega-budgeted, multi-disciplinary, scientific research that is actually going on right now, in the real world.

I highly recommend it.

Now, back to the movie. The Old Guard is, in my estimation, one of the movies produced by Netflix.

It surpassed my expectations, across the boards. The script offers twists, turns and surprises, the production elements (photography, editing, effects, etc.) are absolutely first-rate, and the performances are solid. Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2013) and award-winning actress KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk, 2018) are both noteworthy.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood serves up globe-hopping locations and action sequences reminiscent of the recent James Bond movies starring Daniel Craig.

The fight scenes are hard-hitting and well-choreographed. The gun battles are edge of your seat entertainment, mixed with some slick special effects, including one truly spectacular climactic moment.

While we’ve seen movies about dead soldiers and cowboys returning from the grave to wreak revenge and justice, the premise is usually just an excuse for excessive violence and bloodshed.

Rest assured, there is plenty of that in The Old Guard, the difference here is refreshing layer of complexity and depth regarding the characters.

While they ponder what it might be like to possibly live forever, they must deal with the physical and psychological pain and suffering and soul-searching that go along with it.

Like many movies in recent years, The Old Guard is based on a popular graphic novel.

It has that dark, gritty feel.

I could almost imagine the violent, blood-splattered comic book frames that inspired this film.

I have to believe that the creators were thrilled with the transformation to the big screen.

I enjoyed it, and I must admit that toward the end of the film, I found myself not wanting the film to end.

Thankfully, there is a final scene sufficient to set up a sequel or two.

And there are a couple of graphic novel installments that could provide an extended storyline.

Like the immortal soldiers in The Old Guard, I hope the story can have a few more lives. In the great tradition of show business, they leave you wanting more.


The Old Guard is available now on Netflix.

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