The Netflix original sets up a worthy franchise with plenty of room left to explore.
A sleek spy thriller like Black Widow, or a technical marvel like Top Gun: Maverick getting shelved has created a newfound urgency for blockbuster-sized, action-packed entertainment. The Old Guard, Netflix’s newest release, fills that gap with welcome bloody gore, streamline fight scenes, and superhero lore.
Written as a comic book, The Old Guard tells the story of four immortals who have lived for centuries. They fight wherever their help is needed most, and when they get fatally shot or wounded, their bones snap back into place and their skin regrows. Just like a pack of Wolverines.
Leader Andy (Charlize Theron), Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) are a tight knit team that have spent years forging a unique bond. In an world where everyone has a camera, its become increasingly difficult for them to remain together and keep their identities a secret.
A new mission creates a snag that reveals their rare genetic mutation to a pharmaceutical titan who wants to bottle their DNA for power and profit. That squirmy CEO just so happens to be Dudley Dursley (Harry Melling).
On the run, a new immortal is born in Afghanistan when a Marine named Nile is killed (KiKi Layne). Andy begrudgingly goes to meet this potential new team member. With thousands of years between them, its a given their relationship is going to get off to a rocky start.
But when the whole team is together and things are put in perspective, there is no wall – or human being – The Old Guard can’t tear through.
There is so much source material to mold with thanks to creator Greg Rucka, and writer of the film’s screenplay. He was explicit about telling his story the way he intended, insisting there was proper representation for lovers Joe and Nicky.
It’s rare that an originator gets to translate their story across mediums, but like the axe Andy wields, age and knowledge prove a worthy accessory in battle.
Director Gina Prince- Bythewood (Love & Basketball) brings her knack for heartwarming dramas to a new arena while working with complex action sequences. Things breathe nicely, and the flow between fighting and family time is consistent.
The person who really brings The Old Guard together is Theron.
She’s a powerhouse, dominating a scene with the same intensity using a look over the shoulder or a body slam. A leader on the set as a producer as well, she’s becoming the backbone of an ever-changing industry thanks to an eclectic catalog of work.
Its also a welcome surprise to see KiKi Layne take on a different role too after her breakout performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. She carries an innocence and strength from that film nicely to this one.
The Old Guard may be strong in its action and performances, but its storied lore leaves a lot to answer for. Maybe that means we’ll be getting more, and I’m not mad at that.