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The Old Guard (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 22, 2023


Starring Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Veronica Ngo, Natacha Karam, Mette Towley, Anamaria Marinca, Micheal Ward, Shala Nyx, Majid Essaidi, Joey Ansah, Andrei Zayats, Olivia Ross, Peter Basham, Nadia Niazi, Mehdi Lamrini, Aanya Hirdaramani and Jordan Holland.

Screenplay by Greg Rucka.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Distributed by Netflix. 125 minutes. Rated R.

Superhero films have become so ubiquitous in modern film that the question is not so much “Should they make an arty, morose and introverted superhero drama with Charlize Theron that will debut on Netflix?” The question is “Why wouldn’t they?”

The Old Guard is not really a typical superhero film, but that’s not what it’s trying to be. It is pondering some deeper questions, developing characters, trying to put the whole idea of the hero lifestyle on trial.

Sure, there is enough mad action to keep the fanboys onboard, but what is most notable about The Old Guard is the silent moments, the deep conversations, the sheer gravity of being given a power you don’t fully understand, nor particularly want.

It has an unhurried pace. It is not all bang-bang action. It is much more reflective. The film has all the time in the world and refuses to rush headlong into genre clichés.

As do the five superheroes here. For their power – or their curse – is immortality. Or sort of. They generally can’t be killed, no matter what happens to them. Shoot them, blow them up, stab them, throw them out of a high-rise window – it doesn’t matter. It hurts them (hurts like hell, it seems), but they will come back. Eventually they are going to die, or at the very least slowly lose their ability to heal, but not until they have lived through millennia and survived thousands of traumatic deaths through the years.

This underground group of mercenaries is led by Andy (Theron), an ageless leader who has been protecting the people of Earth for centuries. She has put together a rag-tag crew of similarly-powered heroes – Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Nicky (Luca Marinelli). Together they roam the planet in secret, righting wrongs, protecting the innocent and fighting evil.

Things change for them in three distinct ways. They learn of a new immortal, a soldier named Nile (KiKi Layne), and set out to recruit her into their team. They are also ambushed by a covert former CIA agent (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who has joined forces with a power-mad biotech executive (Harry Melling) who is determined to find the secret behind the teams powers – regardless of who he has to hurt or kill to gain the information.

The final change is one that Andy tries her best to obscure. Her powers seem to be weakening, her ability to heal is slowing down. Is she coming to the end of the line? Is she recruiting Nile to take her place as the strong woman in charge of their team?

This is pretty much it. Andy and her team hide out; fighting off mercenaries, private soldiers and killers who are tracking them across the globe. They talk, ponder their fates, deal with betrayals, love and pain, at the same time trying to find out who is targeting them.

Elegantly directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball), The Old Guard takes an overdone genre and gives it handsome nuance. It’s not really a popcorn action film like so many similar films, nor is it a morose and depressing mope fest like some. (We’re looking at you, Zack Snyder’s DC films…)

While I can’t see The Old Guard being the type of film that people obsessively watch over and over, it is a smart and unique look at some overdone action tropes.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: July 10, 2020.

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