The Old Guard is one of those comic book adaptations that hits all the right marks, establishes its premise well and has good action sequences, but more than anything else had me eagerly anticipating the inevitable sequel.
In a lot of ways, The Old Guard feels like the traditional cinematic approach for a comic book film before Marvel Studios built their billion dollar empire on a formula that realized origin stories had become passe. Get to the good stuff right away and trust the viewers to be able to keep up. The traditional approach isn’t bad, but it leads to so much world building and explanation it’s hard to just get lost in the world.
Andy (Charlize Theron, Bombshell) leads an unusual squad of highly trained soldiers, Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts, Red Sparrow), Joe (Marwan Kenzari, Aladdin) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) in carrying out dangerous missions worldwide. Whatever dangers they face aren’t that nerve-rattling though as they’re immortal, significantly stacking the odds in their favor during a battle.
Screenwriter Greg Rucka, actually getting to adapt his own graphic novel, reveals a catch with this immortal status. While they can’t be killed, eventually they will have racked up enough death/resurrection points that they will eventually find the get out of death free card punched out and they will die. That hasn’t been a problem for Andy and her crew who have gone through centuries operating behind the scenes and in the shadows in a seemingly futile effort to help humanity.
The group gets alerted to the arrival of a new immortal — Nile (KiKi Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk), a U.S. Marine who recently had her first brush with death.
Andy and her team are back on the run after being set up by an old contact Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Doctor Strange). Ejiofor is an actor who always maximizes his screen time and it’s no surprise that he makes Copley a nuanced character without a major spotlight.
- Image Comics reviews 7/8/20 – Bitter Root #9, Stealth #3, Excellence #8
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars finale review – a grand conclusion
- Storm Collectibles Mortal Kombat Shao Kahn figure review
- Marvel Legends Black Widow figure review – Wal-Mart exclusive
The unavoidable problem here is there’s not a ton of suspense with a premise involving immortal warriors. Rucka tries to add some drama in a “will this be the final death?” dynamic, but the setup doesn’t properly work as it negates the concept if someone happens to get kill in our initial introduction.
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights) does a fantastic job with the action sequences, which aren’t as spastic and all over the place like too many gun-focused fight scenes. Prince-Bythewood also allows the film to have some quieter, less intense moments for some strong character development moments.
The best feature Andy, who’s long since become jaded with the sense that her actions have lacked purpose. Theron has always been a decent actor, but this last decade (post Best Actress Oscar win for Monster) has really seen her find a new level of excellence. She is dialed in properly to every character and Andy is one of her more intriguing characters. It doesn’t hurt that once again she kills it in her brutal, intense fight scenes.
Booker is saddened over the losses he’s endured through the decades while Joe and Nicky have found love through their numerous resurrections. It doesn’t seem like action films take different approaches with LGBT characters, who are often sidelined during the fight scenes and that number is further diminished with cool gay characters. Joe and Nicky don’t play into cliches and their relationship is refreshingly not portrayed any different than a heterosexual one. Interestingly, as this is the film’s only romantic relationship, it’s not bogged down by trying to start up a new love story.
Instead more of the focus is on Andy mentoring Nile. That’s a fresh approach and I liked the presumed notion that Nile will eventually succeed Andy as the leader. Layne plays the rookie well and it was nice to have a fresh face in an action movie.
At just over two hours, the film feels somewhat bloated given the story. Maybe that was just to whet the appetite for the next installment? It seems like a longshot that Netflix wouldn’t want at least one more sequel given the star power, skilled director and obvious plot. Don’t be shocked if that film reaches the potential mostly teased with this one.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix