THE OLD GUARD is one of the surprise hits of the year with an original script, diverse cast, and thrilling fight scenes. And why am I surprised when the movie has two amazing women at the helm?! QUEEN Charlize Theron, who also produced the movie, goes full Imperator Furiosa/Atomic Blonde, kicking ass and taking names just like the prophesies foretold. And director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who also wrote and directed one of the best romance movies of all time LOVE AND BASKETBALL, shows that no matter the format or genre she can make a super entertaining movie.
A sci-fi/action adventure set across the world, the story follows a band of mercenaries who fight bad guys without care for their own safety. Why you may ask? Well, because they are kind of immortal. I say kind of because they do eventually die. They don’t know when, they don’t know why, but after several (hundred) years, one day they stop being able to heal themselves. This is a bit of a problem since the mercenaries regularly take bullets to the head and jump off of tall buildings because they have previously always come back to life. But one of these times, they will stay dead forever. Dun dun dun.
Andromache of Scythia (Theron)—I know, dumb name but don’t worry she goes by “Andy”—is the oldest of the crew. She has lived for hundreds and hundreds of years and has been involved in many important moments of history. But even she and her team are not a match for an evil pharmaceutical company who wants to use the group as guinea pigs for future drugs. While on the run, the team’s strong psychic connection initiates a collective dream, which shows there is another immortal out there, a U.S. Marine named Nile (Kiki Lane), who they rush to bring into the fold for protection… and to fight back.
Props to Netflix for putting their money where their mouth is and not skimping on the budget. It’s always easy to tell cheesy “direct to DVD” action movies based on the quality of the CGI, but THE OLD GUARD looks like it could just as easily be in theaters. I also loved that the movie features a diverse cast led by female characters (one of which is African American) and prominently features a gay couple, whose romance is a critical element in the plot.
Could I watch Charlize in fight scenes for days? Yes. Do I want her to punch me in the face? You know it. But the movie is not just an ass-kicking good time, it also has a lot of heart and character development, which is rare in action movies. Instead of breezing over how each character deals with their own immortality, they confront it head on and show the gift is actually more like a curse when you begin outliving your loved ones. You actually feel sympathy over the fact that immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… especially if you are trapped in a coffin at the bottom of the ocean (you’ll see what I mean).
It’s not often that you see an actually good action movie bypass theaters to come directly to streaming services, but THE OLD GUARD is just the adrenaline shot we need. The movie is at its best when it has high octane scenes of Charlize kicking with the force of one hundred Megan Rapinoes. Seriously, no one kicks with the same intensity as Charlize and I’m here for it. And based on the end credit scenes, it seems we may be on the road to getting a franchise out of these characters.
My review: B