Netflix's "The Old Guard" is the fresh action flick you didn't know you needed.
If you enjoy Wolverine, Deadpool, John Wick, or just gritty superhero movies in general, then this action-packed bone-crunching movie, adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, is a must-see for you. I tried to keep this review as spoiler free as I could, but keep in mind there might be some plot related things below so consider this your warning.
"The Old Guard" is a new Netflix movie adaption based on the graphic novel of the same name from Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández. "The Old Guard" is published by Image Comics, who also happens to be the company behind the well-known title
"The Walking Dead."
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood establishes very early on that this isn't going to be a mindless senseless action flick. It took less than five minutes to become wrapped up with the story and its characters. They immediately begin to endear you to these characters by presenting you with interesting personalities choosing to forgo the typical alcoholic self-hating hero stereotype presented in most action flicks. By presenting characters the way the show does, early on, you are immediately interested in finding out more. Most action flicks these days feel like they lack a story behind the action that grabs you. The heroes are merely a vessel for the action scenes while the choreography and special effects are the stars of the show. However, in "The Old Guard", these amazing and endearing superheroes were the best part of the movie. And surprisingly, the writers found a way to develop each and every one of them.
The diversity of the cast felt amazing and fresh without being a forced focal point and was exactly what it needed to be. Whether it was the empathetic warrior and former marine Nile (played by KiKi Layne) having to come to grips with recently becoming an immortal, or Joe and Nicky (played by Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli) telling a beautiful story of love, acceptance, and self-realization, it all felt powerful and organic to the story.
Joe and Nicky are indeed lovers, and the movie does not shy away from making this known and embracing this as a strong part of who they are, further developing these characters beyond the token couple. Theses characters do not feel like tokens, but fully realized and very real people because Marwan and Luca win you over by their portrayal of true and actual love in an immortal relationship.
Theron does a fantastic job as she portrays an exhausted immortal who has walked the world so long, fought so many battles, and ultimately wonders what good if any it did, certainly echoing how a lot of people might feel in our current climate. It's through Andy's eyes we get to see the effects of immortality over perhaps thousands of years. After enough centuries, what weighs on you most is the loneliness. In the end, it seems a horrible fate they suffer is the loneliness they feel.
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood did an absolutely fantastic job of adapting this graphic novel to the big screen and presented a story that I am looking forward to more of. If a single person could give a standing ovation, then this film received just that. I feel that with successes like "The Old Guard" and "Wonder Woman", what directors like Prince-Bythewood and Patty Jenkins are proving in the genre of blockbuster action films is that Hollywood needs to put more women both in front of and behind the camera and give support to more projects with women at the helm.
As much as I loved "The Old Guard," I can not claim that it is flawless.
To me, one of the movie's biggest weaknesses is its antagonists. Steven Merrick (played by Harry Melling who is well known for his portrayal of Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter movies) plays a ruthless CEO of a pharmaceutical company named after himself. And big surprise, he's evil. He wants to unlock the DNA that gives the heroes thier immortality, find a way to sell it, make more money, etc etc. His character can honestly just be labeled "evil rich villain." Merrick's story was all but nonexistent, his motivation was bland and ultimately, we've all seen this character in a thousand other movies.
And then there's James Copley (played well by Chiwetel Ejiofor) a former CIA agent who has pieced together this long history of immortal heroes and then, decided instead to work with an evil CEO of a pharmaceutical company? While we do get a brief explanation at the very end as to Copley's motivation, it feels as though perhaps the writers spent so much time developing the heroes, they didn't have time to develop a story for the antagonists.
The end of the movie did leave it open, and perhaps they plan to open and unpack his character in the sequel?
One other minor weakness I found was the soundtrack placement. The music selection was great, however, the timing sometimes felt off and was a bit distracting.
Minor flaws aside, "The Old Guard" was a fabulous action packed thrill ride with superbly written characters and certainly a 10/10 and since they took the time to set up a sequel, I am enthusiastically waiting for part 2.