Netflix is well and truly selling itself on the action genre. Following on from other action flicks, namely 6 Underground and Extraction, comic book adaptation The Old Guard is the next attempt at a Netflix franchise starter. And boy, does it milk it.
Aside from offering obvious sequel bait and prequel bait, director Gina Prince-Bythewood offers us a movie that relies and drags on an abundance of cliches, rather than attempting to offer up anything slightly original.
The Old Guard follows a group of four mercenaries – led by Charlize Theron’s Andy – as they try their best to make the world a slightly better place. Except there’s a twist, they’re immortal.
But they’re also not immortal. Because they do eventually die. So, technically they just have a sort of death-free span up until a certain point. It’s weird, it’s never really explained why this is the case. It’s just an attempt to up the stakes a bit more for the final battle.
Basically, they’re immortal until the plot demands otherwise.
This actually ends up causing a lot of issues within the action sequences. When the immortal characters are immortal, it’s nice to see moments where some of them are shot and injured – this is realistic action. It makes a change to the typical ‘bulletproof hero’ we usually get in these kinds of films.
Until, of course, the immortal becomes mortal and they subvert back to that stereotype. One ridiculous moment involves the character blocking a bullet with an axe purely so they can stay in on the action sequence. Even though there’s an attempt at upping the ante by causing this issue of mortality, the film instantly nullifies it by playing the action annoyingly and predictably safe.
This is one of many issues in Greg Rucka’s flawed script. It’s a shame as Rucka is actually adapting his own comic book material. It’s clear comic books and film are very different mediums and Rucka struggles to make the switch.
His dialogue and characterisation is poor. Marwan Kenzari’s Joe and Luca Marinelli’s Nicky are two members of the team and they are also lovers. This relationship, unfortunately, is all the characterisation provided for them. Rather than crafting an individuality for each character, instead they are simply portrayed as ‘the relationship’.
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Another irritating moment comes when new member of the team, Nile (KiKi Layne) learns about her immortality and is introduced to the team. Rather than questioning how this new change in lifestyle is going to affect her and her family, she chooses instead to ask about Andy’s history. Nile’s incessant need to know about Andy stems from Rucka’s attempt at trying to build up an intrigue around the main character.
Maybe more of this could have been forgiven, if the action sequences had been exciting. Unfortunately, Prince-Bythewood simply doesn’t know what good action is.
The one redeeming sequence comes towards the end when the team, now up to five members, fights their way out of a lab. Up until this point, however, the other two or three action moments are completely forgettable. Bogged down by what sounds like the same pop song in each sequence, Theron doesn’t get to show off nearly enough of her skill.
A film that relied on doing something new in order for it to be fresh, ends up doing the exact opposite by playing it too safe. Without Theron, who is the only one who sells the plot, The Old Guard would be completely dead in the water.
A synopsis reads:
A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ability to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret, and they must fight to protect their freedom.
The Old Guard is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix. It stars Charlize Theron,KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.