Based on a graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka (who between this and Stumptown is doing incredibly well in Hollywood at the moment); The Old Guard is about a group of seemingly immortal warriors, struggling to do a little good while maintaining their anonymity in a quickly shrinking world. It's cast includes Kiki Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and of course the supremely talented Charlize Theron as the lead.
Speaking of Charlize Theron, can we just take a moment to appreciate how good she is in things? Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, Gringo, Tully, Long Shot, Bombshell, and that's just the last five years. She's proven that she can glide effortlessly between action, drama, and comedy with stunning effectiveness and believability, which is impressive enough on it's own but then you add to that the fact she was a producer on all but one of those movies and it really shows how good she is at picking projects and what a mark of quality it is to have her on board.
Anyway, fan moment over, let's actually get into the subject of this review.
I haven't (yet) read the comic this is based on, but seeing as Greg Rucka wrote the screenplay as well, it's probably as accurate to the source material as it needs to be. The story starts with the team meeting back up, after what appears to be a long hiatus, in order to do a job. Right away it's clear privacy and anonymity are important to these people, as they try to avoid densely populated areas, permanently wear sunglasses, and delete people's terrible selfies (a much needed service these days).
You really get a sense of how grounded down these characters are, especially Andy & Booker. It's not easy to communicate hundreds of years of trauma, and it's even harder to do it without falling into the trappings of generic action movie stoic types, with no other personality traits; but the performances and the script walk that line nicely, offsetting the action with genuine emotion and moments of levity.
Stories of very long lived people, and the ramifications of that on the human condition are far from a novel concept, and have been explored somewhat excessively in recent pop culture, with shows like Forever, comic books like The Eternals, and a surplus of Vampire related media. While The Old Guard doesn't necessarily offer fresh insights on that, the level of care and attention to detail with which they're executed makes for an engaging watch nonetheless. In a lesser story, these unkillable badasses wouldn't give the time of day to fears of being captured and tortured for countless lifetimes, but in this, it's not only brought up, it's at the forefront of the characters' motivations.
That's not to say they aren’t badass though, which they absolutely are. The action scenes in this film are beautifully choreographed, stunningly visceral, and most importantly, have a weight to them. They’re not a floppy mess of smudgy-looking CGI, they’re surprisingly practical, and more or less all of them serve the story or work to flesh out character(s).
In my exposure to it, the term “Netflix Movie” seems to come preloaded with negative connotations, like a cheapness or lack of polish, which isn’t entirely unearned; but after seeing films like this, and Extraction, I think the bar has been raised. If this recent trend continues, a Netflix Movie could soon carry the same sort of clout and preconceptions as a Blumhouse Movie: big results from a small to mid range budget, through creative filmmaking.
Written by Kyle J.