THE OLD GUARD – Film Review

Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary.

This past week, I had seen a lot of my friends on social media websites talking about how awesome this movie called The Old Guard was. I was intrigued since they all said it was a new release film on Netflix starring Charlize Theron. Having been quite the fan of her work in the past, particularly her role as Furiosa in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, I was quite surprised that I hadn’t heard about this movie sooner than I had.

So, without any further hesitation, I took it upon myself to check out The Old Guard for myself, and I am incredibly glad that I did. If the year continues to have great action flicks such as this one and Extraction, it seems as though 2020 is shaping up to be quite the year full of surprisingly great action blockbusters.

As I mentioned earlier, before watching this film on Netflix earlier, I had not heard a single thing about it. I didn’t know what it was about seeing as how I didn’t watch a single trailer or any sort of promotional video relating to the film. That’s why whenever I saw what the movie is really about and the clever plotline that they set up in the first ten minutes, I was hooked from that moment forward.

Essentially, in The Old Guard, Andy and her group of mercenaries are immortal. But we don’t know that at first. We watch a scene where they enter a room armed to the teeth with tons of high-class weapons. Because so many of us have seen dozens of action films in the past, we probably all watched this scene thinking “Of course Charlize Theron and her team is going to succeed here”. It makes sense for us to think that. It’s the opening scene. We all know that the lead protagonists of any film do not die in the first scene.

Charlize Theron as Andy in The Old Guard (2020).

But then, in a shocking twist that actually made open my mouth wide in shock, the moment Andy and her mercenaries march into this room full of soldiers, they get gunned down instantaneously. They are unable to fire even a single bullet in retaliation as we see their seemingly lifeless bodies drop to the floor. We think to ourselves “How can this be possible?”. After all, the film just began and our protagonists have already died?

As soon as I saw this happen, I had an idea as to how the movie could go forward from there, but it was an idea that I ultimately didn’t like too much and I was hoping that the script would deviate from that. Gratefully, it did. Instead of having the rest of the film be told entirely in flashbacks leading up to that opening scene, we are quickly informed that her team of mercenaries is immortal. It takes just a few moments for their wounds to heal right up and get back on their feet. What ensues is a breathless fight scene that was equal parts riveting and surprising.

That’s really the strongest aspect to The Old Guard – the amount of action it has and how well each action scene is crafted. All of the stunt work here is truly phenomenal and a wonder to behold. It’s all in-camera, meaning that we thankfully don’t get any of that dreaded shaky-cam filmmaking. Every time Andy and her group get into a bloody gunfight or fistfight with an enemy, it feels visceral and intense. We hear the sounds of bones getting smashed and we see blood spew out of their mouths. This movie didn’t hold back when it comes to violence and that’s a good thing.

What makes the action even better is that we feel as though our heroes could be in danger eventually. It is explained in the film that, despite the fact that they are all immortal, it’s only for a little while. The immortality lasts for a long time, but it ultimately stops. One day, they will all die, so they can’t just go around getting shot because this day could be their last.

This makes us genuinely care for our lead heroes. All of them are giving a surprising amount of character development that I truly did not expect. I was hoping that this wasn’t going to be a film with endless action and that’s it. We need characters to be attached to and we need a story that we can get interested in. Thankfully, this movie has that.

What it also has is an incredible lead performance from Charlize Theron who feels lively and as dangerous as ever. From the first time in which we see her character here, we get a strong sense of danger. We know just by looking at her that if you pick a fight with her, it is only going to mean trouble for you. She gets a lot of things to do in this one-hundred and twenty-five-minute film and there is never a moment wasted with her.

Charlize Theron (left) as Andy and KiKi Layne (right) as Nile in The Old Guard (2020).

Also great in the film is KiKi Layne as Nile Freeman, who joins the film towards the end of the first act. At first, it seemed as though she was going to be an annoying side character, and I honestly didn’t like the direction her character was heading for a little while. But eventually, she becomes a compelling and exciting character on her own which was fantastic to see.

As fun as this movie is to watch, however, it is most definitely not without its problems. One of the strangest and most jarring aspects of The Old Guard is its odd decision to place modern pop songs throughout many of its scenes. Not only was it incredibly jarring to listen to Marshmello and Khalid’s “Silence” after watching a massive action scene, but it took me right out of the film. This happens at least five different times in the film and each and every single time it happened it was extremely annoying and just made no sense whatsoever.

Also, the film does suffer from a large amount of exposition at times. Gratefully, there isn’t too much of it to the point where it becomes tragically frustrating, but there is quite a bit of it every once in a while. More visual storytelling would have been nice.

All in all, though, The Old Guard is a mesmerizing action spectacle and one of the most entertaining films of the year so far. It has plenty of surprises up its sleeves and contains yet another knockout performance from Charlize Theron and company.

The Old Guard is a mesmerizing action spectacle thanks to the fascinating set pieces and stunt choreography and its exciting lead performance from Charlize Theron.

Overall Grade: B+

MPAA Rating: R for sequences of graphic violence, and language

Cast: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Matthias Schoenaerts, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anamaria Marinca, Joey Ansah

Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Distributed by: Netflix

Release Date: July 10, 2020

Running Time: 125 minutes

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