That an action film should be exciting seems axiomatic -- so trite as to hardly bear mentioning. However, The Old Guard is more often an exercise in tedium interrupted by mindless action scenes we've seen done before and better.
The plot is a mash-up of elements from Highlander and Coronet Blue, a television series from the 1960s, with a dash of shared dreams from Inception. However, as with many current films, the filmmakers seem more interested in exploring social issues than character and plot development.
Much of the screen time is devoted to the dramatic question of whether a black female can be a superhero. Of course, this can't be somebody who is just black enough to seem exotically ethnic, with the manners, sophistication, education, and polish of an upper-middleclass suburbanite; but a tough, streetwise, dark-complexioned, cornrow-coifed war veteran who's a bit rough around the edges.
So much time and attention is devoted to the training and inculcation of this new recruit, that potentially more interesting elements in the script are given short shrift. One character has an existential dilemma, which is never resolved. An intriguing element concerning the fate of a former member of the team is never resolved, despite the team's paranormal ability to share dreams, but is inexplicably revisited in a postscript scene during the credits.
There is no B-story to give the movie emotional depth. The only romance is a homosexual relationship between two of the team members which may offend some, but will leave most viewers disinterested. There are several pitched gunfights with evil minions dressed in full tactical gear with helmets and balaclavas, who are dispatched with surfeit of bullets but minimal bloodshed, and about as much emotional impact as decommissioning robots.
Charlize Theron was quoted recently criticizing Steven Seagal's fight sequences and suggesting that her own were more realistic and intense. For action-film fans, one criterion for evaluating action scenes is the length of the shots. In JCVD, Jean-Claude Van Damme does a three-minute scene involving numerous weapons and opponents, shot in one take. That's impressive. TOG employs a lot of quick cuts which only require the performers to master one move. The fights are fairly good, but Pale compared to movies like The Raid and Banlieue 13 (District B13), or the films of Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan and Jason Stratham.
The filmmakers seem so concerned with being woke, that they neglect to make the film exciting, rewarding, intriguing or cathartic.