Charlize Theron continues her streak as a bad-ass action star. She wracks up an impressive body count as an immortal warrior in The Old Guard; a film adaptation of the comic series by Greg Rucka and illustrator Leandro Fernández. It’s also the action debut of Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood. She’s proof that a good filmmaker can excel in any genre. The Old Guard has an intriguing premise, but a rather obvious plot twist. The ending leaves quite a few unanswered questions. You’re left eagerly anticipating the sequel.
Four dear friends reunite for a clandestine meeting in Morocco. Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) haven’t seen their leader, Andy (Charlize Theron), for a year. She needed time away. She felt that they hadn’t accomplished any good in the world. Booker has brought her back for a desperate, time sensitive mission. An ex-CIA officer, Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofer), has the location of over a dozen girls kidnapped by extremists. They will be sold and trafficked if not rescued within hours.
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The Old Guard races to Sudan. What they find is an even bigger predicament. Their great secret has been exposed. They cannot be killed. Andy is a modern nickname for Andromache of Scythia. The oldest of the group, she’s lived for thousands of years. Andy and her compatriots hold the key to everlasting life. A ruthless pharma executive (Harry Melling) is hellbent on discovering their biological secrets. As The Old Guard moves against this dire threat, they are haunted by the dreams of another. A young soldier (Kiki Layne) in Afghanistan is drawn unwillingly into the conflict.
The Old Guard has fascinating characters. They continue to live while everyone around them inevitably dies. Andy has become numb to the loss. Joe and Nicky have been lovers for a millenia. Booker, hundreds of years later, still feels sadness for his children. The team finds solace in each other. They use their skills to fight for a better world. This is their purpose. But have they actually accomplished anything? This is the existential question that gnaws at each of their souls. The current crisis reveals long held differences.
Greg Rucka wrote the screenplay for this Netflix original. He’s initially compelling, but gets muddled by the mystery elements. The Old Guard spends two hours trying to figure out what the audience deduced in twenty minutes. Slick action and good character work by the cast spice up the mediocre dialogue. Matthias Schoenaerts, a superb Belgian actor, brings gravitas and emotion to the script’s shortfalls. His lines, especially a key monologue, would have looked terrible in a lesser actor’s hands.
The Old Guard has a theme of female empowerment. Andy has killed more people than entire armies. Lethality is her primary nature. Kiki Layne, who plays Nile Freeman, brings a new perspective to the carnage. She has the capabilities, but is still unnerved by the violence and The Old Guard’s incredible abilities. The characters reach common ground through blood, bullets, and a whole lot of broken bones. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood bridges the differences between her leads. She nails the action scenes and character development.
Charlize Theron is a sure bet for action fans. She’s been on a roll since Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. The Old Guard is another hollow point bullet in her acting clip. It’s a fun and entertaining summer popcorn flick. Be sure to stick around for the final scene. The Old Guard is a production of Skydance Media. It will be available to stream July 10th globally on Netflix.
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Film critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.