Published on July 18th, 2020 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
The Old Guard
Kim Kurtenbach dishes on Netflix’s hot new Charlize Theron-starring action vehicle and gives us an update on what he had for dinner in the process.
Netflix continues its bid for world domination as they grab hold of another graphic novel and translate it to live action. It quickly shot to the #1 most-watched title last week. The Old Guard (2020) is a more mature theme and tone than other Netflix adaptations such as I Am Not Okay With This, but it checks more boxes in multiple genres and demanded a much larger budget. It’s a movie about soldiers and warriors, relentless corporate narcissism, the blessed curse of eternal life, and the differences between true-hearted devotion vs blind loyalty.
Not every graphic novel or comic adaption in the Netflix cannon is going to be as obvious as The Walking Dead (2010) or The Punisher (2017), so 2020 has brought additional projects such as Extraction and The Old Guard.
The action-drama-fantasy contains multiple platforms of violence, including hand-to-hand combat, fire-fights, (mostly) implied forms of torture, swordplay and explosions. It’s all been done before, from Commando (1985) to The Expendables (2010) to John Wick (2014), but now these intense scenes of ass-kickery are stolen by Charlize Theron and KiKi Lane.
Part of the robust ($70M) budget was set aside to secure Theron as the star-powered draw, to pay her acting and producing fees, and it was money well spent. Her dedication to this project, regardless of fact that this movie falls flat in many ways, is clearly passionate and professional.
I love Charlize Theron for a lot of her past roles and the guts she has to take on a multiverse of characters. She shaved her head to play tough, put on an ugly amount of weight to play borderline personality disorder, got fashionable to play the steamy bombshell, and tackled nearly thirty projects since 2014.
My favourite was always how perfectly hilarious she was on Arrested Development (2003). The only thing more perplexing than her unexpected appearance on AD was the fact that she fit in so well with the quirky ensemble, as though she herself was a miscast misfit rather than an Oscar-winning powerhouse. Theron is talent, confidence and looks.
As a soldier-for-hire (with a conscience) in The Old Guard, something special about the way she played the role made me buy in, while another affectation of her character made me tune out. Anytime I watch a band of mercenaries, an elite squad of black op rogue agent highly trained MI6 guerrilla special forces type fellas, I expect to see a convincing–if not outright intimidating–handling of weapons and combat skills. Watching Theron from minute one, she moves like a panther. Hair short, shoulders back and posture relaxed, she sways and slinks, always ready to finish her prey in a gorgeous bloodbath. She looks like a star and a threat, even more-so than her male colleagues and counterparts, and it forms the backbone of the movie.
Yet, in a fair assessment of her character’s depth, Theron also exudes a constant weariness, a fatigue that seeps from the story to her screen-presence to your living room sofa. Maybe a proper soundtrack could have punched up The Old Guard to a higher level, but the sound and music of the movie is totally unremarkable. Netflix should have hired the crew from Killing Eve (2018), who seem to regularly splatter their landscape with ideal music that almost transcends key scenes into stylish music videos. Without this advantage, it becomes obvious and dreary that Andy (Theon) spends much of her time wishing she could be laid to rest, and I began to wish the same for myself.
The remaining main cast members come from different parts of the world, bringing new accents, languages and gravity. These actors are accomplished but unrecognizable to us because they are from someone else’s mainstream, not ours. This holds true, at least, for Andy’s original crew of Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts, Belgium), Joe (Marwan Kenzari, Netherlands) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli, Italy).
Rounding out the main cast is relative newcomer KiKi Layne (Nile), the magnetically watchable Chiwetel Ejiofor as the obligatory cop/agent/spy and Harry Melling, that little prick from Harry Potter who played the fat, spoiled brat, Dudley. Melling is now just the grown-up version of that vile twerp, which makes for a deliciously despicable villain. So, casting isn’t a problem or let-down. It’s just that the mishmash plot doesn’t really add anything new to this genre.
At a run time of 125 minutes, The Old Guard fails to accomplish what FBS editor Craig Silliphant recently praised as one of his favourite attributes in good filmmaking, “a lean, mean running time with little fat on things”. Craig used the metaphor of a steak, but I think that only happened because he worked all day and skipped dinner to provide analysis of Greyhound (2020) so we would know if it was worth watching after stuffing our faces with bbq. I just ate a tub of Hanes Hummus (roasted garlic and dill, if you must know) with a pile of vegetables and crackers, so I’m good. But, in honour of Craig’s article from last week, I will attempt to cook on a similar grill, as it were.
The Old Guard is less of a lean, nicely marbled steak and more like one of those burgers from the Guinness Book of You-Don’t-Have-to-Eat-That-to-Prove-Anything. You know, a burger the size of a football helmet that has every imaginable condiment slathered all over it, a concoction more Guy Fieri than Anthony Bourdain. Still, if that’s what you’re in the mood for once in a while, don’t let anyone else tell you what to eat. Not every meal has to be steak and lobster to be enjoyed with adequate satisfaction.
Check out the trailer below.