The Old Guard
Charlize Theron stars as the head of a team of immortals who must evade capture in The Old Guard.
Early on in The Old Guard you are told exactly about your heroes. A bunch of immortals determined to right every wrong they have ever witnessed - even if they have less than spotless historical records themselves.
The godlike mercenaries are led by Charlize Theron's Andromache of Scythia, Andy for short, whose age is unknown but whose moniker seems Greek.
The youngest is Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), formerly a soldier in the Napoleonic wars, and then there's Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), who fought on opposing sides in the Crusades, but are now lovers.
Together, they form an elite team of ludicrously proficient fighters for hire - so long as the price and cause is right - who are engaged by CIA-linked freelancer Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) on a heroic job to rescue kidnapped girls.
This mercy mission turns out to have a far more sinister motive, however, inspired by wonderkid pharmaceutical CEO, Merrick (Harry Potter's Harry Melling).
Newly-immortal marine Nile (Kiki Layne) joins the Old Guard as they struggle to keep their secrets and bodies intact from Merrick. As they are a unique group unable to die, Merrick seeks their DNA to benefit humanity (and his bank balance).
At first look, The Old Guard, adapted from Gregory Rucka's graphic novel, is a perfunctory attempt to start a new comic book franchise.
Its heroes scrap with faceless villains and each other, and the plot, such as it is, telegraphs its set-pieces in a way that an audience can see what's coming for most of the movie as clearly as its warriors see a flailing arm they need to deflect.
However, director Gina Prince-Bythewood and Rucka, who adapted his novel, have somehow turned what could be a prosaic action romp into a film that is both witty and strangely melancholic.
A problem all superhero films have is their characters' invincibility. It's something you would expect this film to suffer from - but The Old Guard's team's invulnerability is adeptly played for laughs, such as when Nile grapples with Andy on a plane, as well as for poignancy, when we discover death may be better than what some immortals suffer.
Initially, you think you are going through the same old X-Men-inspired plot (and in many ways you are), but the cast and writing inspires a loyalty that stretches beyond your average action or superhero thriller.
Bullets may fly - and for once hit our leads (even if they can't die), but one actually cares about every character in a way that goes beyond their martial arts skills - with Layne a standout.
At over two hours, The Old Guard could do with some trimming; but this is a rare superhero/action thriller that is not an established property, and which engages rather than bores when establishing its characters and premise.
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