Combustible Celluloid
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With: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Anamaria Marinca, Joey Ansah
Written by: Greg Rucka, based on comic books by Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of graphic violence, and language
Running Time: 125
Date: 07/10/2020

The Old Guard (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Immortal Coils

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It would have been great to give this film, the first superhero movie directed by a Black woman, an enthusiastic recommend. But the truth is that it just doesn't entirely work. The middle section has some enjoyable moments, but it's too long and too cluttered, and its villain (played by Dudley Dursley himself, Harry Melling) is too one-note. The Old Guard misses a chance to be interesting right off the bat, spending a long stretch of film introducing us to the super-team, who are, essentially, immortals that cannot be killed and have devoted themselves to doing good in the world. Andy (Charlize Theron) is the leader, and the others are Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). In a refreshing twist, Joe and Nicky are soulmates, seen cuddling and kissing.

Then, about 20 minutes later, we meet Nile (KiKi Layne), where the film should have started. She's a tough Marine who suddenly gains the same superpower, and the team must come and whisk her away before anything happens to her. At the same time, they have been set up by former CIA man Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and sold out to a Big Pharma developer (Melling), who hopes to use their powers to make medicine (and get really rich). To me, the idea of the heroes just doing their thing would have been a pretty interesting movie in itself, without all this other extra busy stuff thrown in. (It was written by Greg Rucka, who co-created the comic book.) While director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees) stages some pretty fun action sequences, she's also unfortunately a camera wobbler, and the whole thing could have been tighter. But the characters and their interplay is enjoyable for large portions of the movie, so I'd mark this one "worth a look."

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