Netflix’s The Old Guard is a standard, obligatory comic book action film that will leave you with Bloodshot eyes.
Netflix’s The Old Guard is based on the best-selling comic book series of the same name by Leandro Fernandez, a critically acclaimed Argentine artist who is a hot commodity among all the comic book companies like Marvel and Vertigo. The film adaption focuses on a group of immortal mercenaries who are hundreds upon hundreds of years old because they can heal from any injury they suffer — nothing is fatal (please note, this is a must-have for a soldier’s resume builder under the “skills” section). Their group is led by Andromache the Scythian or “Andy” (Charlize Theron, which is ironic since she hasn’t really aged a day in her life, but she was replaced for a younger version of her character in the Mad Max prequel) a soldier in a tight-knit group of four. They have to be since they can’t form relationships and families of their own to keep their secret safe. The team (which includes The Mustang’s Matthias Schoenaerts), after a mission set up by their confidant Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), all have a joint vision of solider named Nile (If Beale Street Could Talk’s Kiki Layne) who survives a knife to the throat in battle and speeds off to catch her before the government gets their hands on her. There is no doubt this film will leave you with Bloodshot eyes.
It’s really hard to imagine that Director Gina Prince-Blythewood (Love & Basketball) has her name associated with this film that has so many obligatory action clichés from talented actors — so much so, right out of the gate you have Ejiofor’s Copley telling the group that they are the only ones he trusts and the standard, pissed-off hero taking down a camera after talking into it. The usual lines of, “Listen, kid,” and, “Why is this happening to me?” also make an appearance. Though, let’s give them credit for a fairly quickly reveal of a villain — at least they had the courtesy to unveil it within the first 15 minutes since it was so painfully obvious. The issue remains there are very few surprises in the film and none in their pocket because if you watched the trailer or are a fan of the comic book, you know about the movie’s immortality plotline in the first place. For all the bells and whistles the film has it really is a standard action film with your trope villain and the same corporate mentality of making money over human life. Then there is the little question of movies like this with immortal characters that is never answered — when exactly did this ability settle in? I know most of these handsome thespians age slowly to begin with, but how come none of them look 16-years old the rest of their lives or like Benjamin Button at the end his life?
Despite all of that, these are the usual issues that are almost waived off in any action or comic book film made today. There is such a tightrope you need to walk when trying to launch a film with a series of source material like The Old Guard’s graphic novel series. The usual complaint is the script takes too much time to establish the mythology or backstory, and that is a key problem here with Greg Rucka’s (Whiteout) and Fernandez’s script that slows the film down to a halt in its first half. The themes and moral dilemmas presented are excessively contrite and manipulative while doing nothing to elevate the material from a below-average comic book picture.
The Old Guard does have a couple of good to very well-coordinated action set pieces and Theron more than holds her own here. She is the type of actress who can jump from genre to genre with ease, and has. However, she still hasn’t found the right action franchise yet to use her considerable gifts and talents; well, she had one, and it’s a true shame she wasn’t immortal enough to continue with a Mad Max series, and The Old Guard isn’t the one to get her there.
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M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.