“The Old Guard” stars Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Released on Netflix on July 10, 2020, the film is about a group of immortal mercenaries that must fight for their freedom.
The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, who also directed films such as “Love & Basketball”, “The Secret Life of Bees”, and “Beyond the Lights”. It is based on the comic book of the same name by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández. Being immortal does have its share of faults, but that’s okay. We get to battle bad guys for centuries, so that’s cool. This month sees the release of a film adaptation of a superhero team that refuses to die…literally. No matter how hard the bad guys try, they’ll just keep on coming back for more. This film marks director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s first experience helming an action film after directing plenty of romantic drama films throughout her career, which is something that kind of caught me off guard considering her track record with the latter. I haven’t actually seen some of Prince-Bythewood’s other works because of my lack of interest in the romance genre, so sadly, I can’t compare this one to those films in terms of her direction. But I can compare it to the other superhero films we got over the last few years. With that in mind, let’s see if this film is just as fun as being immortal.
The film’s story centers on a team of mercenaries, which consists of Andy (Theron), Booker (Schoenaerts), Joe (Kenzari), and Nicky (Marinelli). This peculiar team has been living in secret and protecting the world for centuries thanks to their mysterious inability to die. Seriously, just try to kill them. I dare you. Their latest mission forces them to go on the run from Copley (Ejiofor), a former CIA operative who is hired by an executive businessman (Harry Melling) to capture the team. It’s up to Andy and their newest member Nile Freeman (Layne) to protect the group and fight their way out of this predicament. The story has the qualities of a superhero film and the main characters who can heal from any wound imaginable. They’re basically Wolverine times five. This is something that had me quite concerned before I went into this film because of the challenge of developing the characters who can literally live forever. Why should people care about these types of characters? Fortunately, the film offered the right answer to that question. While the film’s script by Greg Rucka felt limited by its familiar genre elements and the lack of memorable characters, the film is never afraid to combine entertainment value with proper storytelling that deals with the grieves of immortality. Yes, the main characters are invulnerable, but it was able to introduce some plot elements, which were somewhat convincing in my eyes, and plenty of character-driven moments that level the playing field without making things unfair for their opponents. As always, storytelling is just as important as the action. The entire cast put plenty of effort in making their characters enjoyable, especially Charlize Theron, who once again showcased her impressive skills as an actor and as an action star. Her performance as Andy was obviously one of the reasons why the film shouldn’t go by unnoticed. KiKi Layne also did pretty well in her role as Nile, the team’s newest recruit, even though her character arc was lacking some strong depth in some places. The other actors who played the other members of the group (Schoenaerts, Kenzari, and Marinelli) had some good moments that were able to prevent their characters from being forgettable. As I mentioned before, this is Prince-Bythewood’s first attempt at directing an action film, let alone a superhero film, so there’s no doubt that she was facing the challenge of having her directorial abilities blend well with this type of genre, especially after directing plenty of drama films during her career. All I can say about her direction after watching it for myself was that she handled the action sequences just as effectively as the drama sequences. It’s no surprise that the action was entertaining, but it was the way these sequences were swiftly shot without succumbing to the overuse of choppy editing that made the film highly watchable. It didn’t come close to reaching the same heights as the “John Wick” films, but I enjoyed them regardless. The last thing that I wouldn’t mind mentioning is the soundtrack. The film had a respectable score by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran, but the song choices that they put in during a couple of scenes were a little bit off-putting in terms of its intended tone. It didn’t hurt the film that much, to be honest, but I think it’s better off without those song choices.
Overall, “The Old Guard” is another action film that succeeds in delivering some engaging sequences and providing a decent story to go along with its butt-kicking goodness. Lead by an appealing performance by Charlize Theron and Prince-Bythewood’s confident sense of direction, this latest superhero film proves that there are indeed some good perks of being immortal. It’s always nice to see a director like Prince-Bythewood step out of their comfort zone to deliver something new and come out on top. It just goes to show that trying something new can often be rewarding, especially when it comes to directing. If Prince-Bythewood gets another opportunity to direct an action film, I will be hoping that it’ll be just as good as this. For those who are in an action-packed mood, this film is worth your time.