July 7th, 2020
MOVIE: THE OLD GUARD
STARRING: CHARLIZE THERON, KIKI LAYNE, MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS, CHIWETEL EJIOFOR
DIRECTED BY: GINA PRINCE-BYTHEWOOD
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
I’m hoping that more fans of the Highlander movies will come out of the woods after watching the newest Netflix action film- The Old Guard. It’s about a group of immortal mercenaries, roaming the earth for centuries, and putting good use to their time, saving the lives of those in need and taking down bad guys. But unlike the 80’s Christopher Lambert/Sean Connery movies, The Old Guard has a genuine superstar leading the way in Charlize Theron and with each tentpole or new high action blockbuster, she impresses me even more. A year ago, Theron was wowing audiences as a romantic lead in The Long Shot and here she is keeping her fans off balance, and now she’s chopping people down with an axe. That may sound like all intense action and no brains, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood knows it takes a bit more to get us to care about these characters. The Old Guard is an excellent “dramaction”, filled with short bursts of intense fighting, deep moral dilemmas, and a bad ass cast, led by the baddest women around- Charlize Theron.
What surprised me the most about The Old Guard, is how much it cares for these characters. The screenplay by Greg Rucka is based on his graphic novel and co-creator Leandro Fernandez’s comic book series. So off the bat, the writing is more interested in explaining who these people are, and their burden of living forever. The leader of the group is Andy (Theron), a slender, jet black haired, mysterious woman, who meets up with her fellow immortals Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Nicky (Luca Marinelli), and Joe (Marwan Kenzari), for a rescue mission of hostage children in Sudan. The job is offered by Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) for a lot of money, but instead of saving lives, it’s a setup to kill the four of them, or at least reveal exactly who these invincible mercenaries are. Keeping the group’s identity a secret is the goal, but when a new immortal named Nile (Kiki Layne) reveals herself, the team must bring her in with hopes of training a new teammate and tracking down Copley for his betrayal.
Typically for a movie of this caliber, one might expect director Gina Prince-Bythewood to rely on set pieces, using foot chase’s or large scale shootouts to draw us in. What the director of Love & Basketball does instead, is draw us into the science, the emotional toll, and the physical toll that these characters experience due to their mortality. That’s not to say that there aren’t phenomenal sequences of Charlize breaking arms and slicing limbs; she dives right back into her fight skills from Atomic Blonde. But Prince-Bythewood lays the weight on strong with the reality that getting shot in the face still hurts, losing loved ones over and over again is painful, and newcomer Nile is just learning of her newfound ability to survive a knife stabbed into her neck. Just like how things were in Highlander, living forever is not exactly as cool as it sounds. It’s actually quite painful.
With any movie that deals with concepts of people that can live forever, there are a few plot holes in the reality of it all, but if you held it up against a time traveling movie, those problems are relatively small. The Old Guard is an excellent origin picture, introducing us to a brand new team of superheroes, equipped with swords, martial arts skills, and a rich experience of life’s history. There is also an awesome combination of Theron and Kiki Layne kicking the crap out of a whole bunch of bad guys. If The Old Guard is going to be the next long running series for Charlize Theron and the new version of Highlander that I’ve been desperately waiting for, consider me on board to watch these movies for all of eternity. As many of you know, there can be only one.
Written by: Leo Brady