THE OLD GUARD (2020) – clockwise from top: Matthias Schoenaerts (“Booker”), Charlize Theron (“Andy”), Luca Marinelli (“Nicky”). Photo Credit: AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX ©2020

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond The Lights), The Old Guard is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks. With twists and turns lurking around every corner, Prince-Bythewood finds a way to keep the film grounded for the small screen, while exploring these immortal warriors’ backstory, keeping some interesting side plots unexplored for the inevitable sequel.

A covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to them to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary.

The Old Guard in some ways shares a similar vibe with other Netflix Original, ‘Extraction‘ – starring Chris Hemsworth. Luckily, this is just the case in the first half hour of the film, just in time to kick things off and get a bit more supernatural when we get acquainted with this group of undead combatants. Because unlike ‘Extraction‘ which relied mostly on its main star, The Old Guard knows how to put every single one of his stars in the spotlight. Charlize Theron (Bombshell) is for sure the biggest name on the cast list, but the story was definitely written for an ensemble, with each character being just as important as its leader, working towards a satisfying finale.

The film delivers on the impressive action-heavy scenes, filled with bloody fist fights, which are perfectly choreographed. This team of fast healing soldiers work well together, after having been around each other for centuries. And although the film is set in modern times, they find a way to incorporate some medieval weapons that feel more natural to the time they initially lived in.

The film’s acting is strong overall. Totally unrecognisable, after impressing audiences and critics with her more timid performance in 2018’s ‘If Beale Street Could Talk‘, KiKi Layne shows a completely different side of herself, as a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Nile gets injured while patrolling with her all female team, but even though she should’ve died, she miraculously heals and gets recruited as the newest member of The Old Guard. Theron, who really doesn’t seem to age, this time takes form as Andy, who’s the oldest member of the team. Like a true acting chameleon, she once again convinces as not only a ferocious action star, but also bringing genuine emotion and charisma to a character that if portrayed by someone else might’ve felt a lot more apathetic. Matthias Schoenaerts (The Laundromat) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil), both well known to deliver fantastic dramatic performances, are as usual good in their respective roles, but don’t really seem challenged in this action flick.

The story doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it could’ve been, but there’s definitely potential and it never gets boring. The one thing that’s missing, is the amount of flashback scenes. We get a few glimpses at The Old Guard’s former lives, who are basically ancient, but unfortunately the film’s budget didn’t allow the scope of these scenes to be bigger than life. Especially when we get to discover Joe (Aladdin‘s Marwan Kenzari, who’s much better cast here than he was as Jafar) and Nicky’s (Luca MarinelliTrust) awesome backstory, when Joe passionately tells us about his undying love for Nicky. A gay love story that doesn’t feel stereotypical, and this in a mainstream action film, is a huge step forward for equal representation in Hollywood. A scene that definitely could’ve had a bigger impact on the viewers’ emotional state when fully reenacted, but nonetheless powerful. Perhaps in a possible sequel, Netflix and the film’s creative team can expand on this and deliver something truly grand.

As a comic book adaption, The Old Guard will please a lot of genre fans, and in the right hands could easily be turned into a franchise. Let’s just hope writer Greg Rucka raises the stakes with future comics and dials the emotional factor up to an eleven, by really making its audience feel more connected to these truly remarkable group of warriors.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Netflix Review – ‘The Old Guard’

Reviewed on Netflix, July 10, 2020. Rating: 16+ Running time: 125 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix presentation of a Denver and Delilah Productions, Image Comics, Netflix and Skydance Media production. Producers: A.J. Dix (p.g.a.), David Ellison (p.g.a.), Marc Evans (p.g.a.), Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Beth Kono (p.g.a.), Charlize Theron. Executive producer: Stan Wlodkowski.

CREW: Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood. Screenplay: Greg Rucka. Camera: Barry Ackroyd, Tami Reiker. Editor: Terilyn A. Shropshire. Music: Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran.

WITH: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Natacha Karam, Mette Towley.

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