IR Film Review: THE OLD GUARD [Netflix]

The texture of finding balance in a good action film while balancing the spirit of the times can be a tall order. Recently starting with “Mad Max: Fury Road” and then with “Atomic Blonde”, Charlize Theron has upped the game while still understanding the inherent acting needed to convince the audience of her character’s plight. With her new film “The Old Guard” premiering on Netflix, she finds a balance but is able to maintain the theatrical feel. While the freedom allowed in the storytelling might be tricky in theatrical, it has undoubted effectiveness here. Like her film “Aeon Flux”, this kind of picture fills the mid range that many studios gave up years ago. These more practical-based action pictures became the stuff of legends because of what they were able to do. What is interesting her is the diversity of characters, how they work and how the characterizations allow them to both be human and bad ass. The charge of the course needs to be led by Theron and she provides that amply without overtaking the contributions of the others.

This works diametrically very well especially with Matthias Schoenaerts who has done very interesting work since he first came on the scene years ago (his performance in “Rust & Bone” — see our interview here) showed power with vulnerability. There is an interesting parallel here between him and Tom Hardy. Hardy seemed to get ore bulky as his career progressed while Matthias has leaned out which works well for the characters he has been playing. He brings that here as well and it is that balance which is the balance of the film. The movie doesn’t slide into tropes though it pays homage to it. With some flashbacks, there are some hints of Xena for sure. While this might have worked as a high end series for Netflix, doing it this way still retains that movie feel without restricting the talent. The base boards have been laid so the inherent concept works.

Adding to the balance is Kiki Layne who goes toe to toe with Charlize especially in one sequence. Theron is gracious enough to allow sharing the screen like this but also hired Gina Prince-Bythewood who is an interesting and yet wholly suitable choice for this story. Granted the supernatural in a way plays into it but is done more grounded than say something like “Highlander”. The film works well but the imagery is fairly straightforward and not overwhelming in style like say a “Mission Impossible” or even “Atomic Blonde” but that might be a truly conscious choice. “The Old Guard” is effective, lean and powerful in many of the ideas it presents while also keying into cool genre concept and hard hitting visceral action.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DOOM PATROL – EPISODE 5 (“Finger Patrol”) [DC Universe-S2]

The ideal of acceptance or even of hope is a progressive ideal. So far in the 2nd season of “Doom Patrol”, the idea of what is being searched for has not quite had a steady through-line. However in Episode 5: “Finger Patrol”, it starts to regain its bearings in many ways. it interestingly enough works within the story-line of parallels with the team members seeing a little bit of themselves in others. Specifically a spark point is when Baby Doll comes out to speak to The Chief. There is almost a transference even though he betrayed her. Sometimes that innocence really belies an ignorance that perhaps Jane is all too aware of. But it is this diametric between Baby Doll and Dorothy that really fuels the episode. Baby Doll wanting to return to a time of happiness but not understanding the danger she is playing with. Dorothy, by comparison, asking why she needs or if she needs to grow up by the monsters inside her. It is a tricky balance especially when kids get vindictive or misrepresent their feelings.

Without giving anything away, this is where it comes to a head. Unlike the previous episode which had more tongue-in-cheek elements, the function here is darker, more dramatic and essential which is when the series truly thrives. The balance works very well with the story that Larry and Rita follow which again is based in acceptance mirrored with a tinge of betrayal. It is heartfelt and without giving too much away it is heartbreaking. Destruction seems to follow these characters literally most of the places they go, even though many of their actions are done with the best intentions. Clint and Cyborg’s story is the least of the parallels. Victor’s story is necessary but right now is the least dynamic of them all but hopefully his drama in what he is dealing with will grow. Cliff always gets into trouble since he dreams about the life he wants and is a magnet for punishment. Of course, the continuing thematic and literal parallel to “The Wizard Of Oz” of course is essential. Cliff’s flights of fancy though give a needed boost of levity which the episodes need as well providing a nice operatic coda without being too melodramatic.

B+

By Tim Wassberg