The Old Guard
- Emma Simmonds
- 6 July 2020
Charlize Theron fronts a generic but enjoyable action fantasy, based on the graphic novels
If the title brings to mind a group of plucky pensioners, the heroes of The Old Guard are, in fact, substantially more senior, as a quartet of immortals try to evade the clutches of a dastardly pharmaceutical geek, whilst inducting a new member into their clique. It's based on Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández's graphic novel series, with the former adapting their adventures for screen. Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights) takes the helm of this Netflix acquisition, resulting in a generic but well-acted fantasy that, at the very least, should quench your thirst for action.
Charlize Theron is Andromache of Scythia, or Andy to her friends, the leader of a band of unkillable, surprisingly moral mercenaries – which also includes Matthias Schoenaerts's Booker and a through-the-ages couple played by Aladdin's Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli – who pride themselves on fighting for what's right. Of undisclosed ancientness, Andy is increasingly finding eternal life a drag, though is conned into a job for Chiwetel Ejiofor's ex-CIA man, and feels obliged to assist a newly immortal marine (If Beale Street Could Talk's KiKi Layne) when she inexplicably recovers from a fatal neck wound, to the confusion and mounting horror of her colleagues. Harry Potter star Harry Melling plays a big pharma CEO, desperate to get his hands on the team's DNA.
Using the tried and trusted strategy of a new recruit acting as an excuse for a shower of exposition, and shamelessly setting itself up as the introductory chapter in a potential franchise, The Old Guard isn't a greatly satisfying standalone film and is desperately lacking in the sense and decent dialogue department, but there's still enough to recommend it. With fight scenes that care marginally more for fisticuffs than gun battles and that add some plausible moves in amongst the excess, there's fun to be had, particularly during a trash-talk-heavy dust-up on a small plane.
Prince-Bythewood has assembled a top quality, diversely drawn cast and an affable core group, who you'll want to survive the scientists' schemes. There's a Wonder Woman-like earnestness which invests the film with an appealing amount of heart, when it's not getting too preachy. The Old Guard doesn't bring a huge amount of its own visual identity or ideas to the table, and the endless globetrotting doesn't help. But Theron can do action heroine in her sleep and Ejiofor, Schoenaerts and Layne are a delightful bonus.
Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 10 Jul.