Film director Gina Prince-Bythewood makes history as the first African American woman to direct a comic book property in Netflix’s, The Old Guard. An adaptation of Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández’s graphic novel, The Old Guard tells the story of a group of mercenaries who are actually immortals. Led by Andy (Charlize Theron), the team consists of tech genius Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) and love birds Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli).
The team accepts a new assignment from the mysterious Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is actually in cahoots with the dastardly evil scientist Merrick (Harry Melling). Copley and Merrick are hoping to discover the secret behind the team’s immorality. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, US Marine Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne) has just been killed in action and discovers that she is now as immortal as well. Andy and her team set out to bring Nile into their crew while staying two steps ahead of Copley and Merrick.
I walked into The Old Guard, knowing very little about the series. However, when the credits rolled, I was ready to start reading the comic. One of the things that most impressed me was Greg Rucka’s script. Adapting his own property, Rucka sets up an origin story without giving too many details about each character’s past. Instead, we get glimpses of Andy kicking ass throughout history. The remaining members briefly speak about their past which works in the film’s favor. The script never dives too deep into their backstories, which is fine as there are always the sequels.
No stranger to the action genre, Charlize Theron shines once again as an action heroine. Whether she’s firing a weapon or engaging in hand to hand combat, Theron is in her comfort zone as Andy. In hindsight, the character of Andy is a mix of the characters Theron portrayed most recently in Atomic Blonde and The Fate of The Furious. However, in The Old Guard, Theron gets a chance to deliver a few one-liners and just have fun with the role.
The rest of the team all give serviceable performances; however, I would have to see that KiKi Layne as Nile was the most impressive. Layne, who stole our hearts in 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk, brings the right amount of vulnerability to the role. Portraying a woman, trying to adjust to her immorality, not to mention she holds her own in the film’s many action sequences.
Chiwetel Ejiofor walks through his role as our secondary antagonist with ease and makes up for the one-note performance by Harry Melling as our primary villain Merrick. Melling previously appeared in the Harry Potter films as Dudley Dursley. The actor just doesn’t have the bravado to convincingly plan a villain and actually brings the film down. Martial artist Joey Ansah who portrays Keane, the head of Merrick’s security, is much better in the role of a villain. Perhaps the characters of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Harry Melling should’ve been swapped, and the end result would’ve been better.
Gina Prince-Bythewood, who is known primarily for drama and lighthearted films, does a great job directing her first action film. The action sequences crisply come across the screen, and the director avoids shaky cam. I also loved that she avoids killing the team of immortals for the sake of a kill scene or a cheap joke.
As movie theaters continue to stay closed due to the COVID, The Old Guard provides quality entertainment in the comfort of your own home. Combining fantastic action sequences and great performances by Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne is highly recommended. Based on the film’s ending and pre-credit stinger, hopefully, this is the start of a new film franchise for Netflix.
Final Grade B+
The Old Guard is available for streaming exclusively on Netflix at www.netflix.com/theoldguard