The Reel Review
Charlize Theron dusts off her action skills honed in Mad Max: Fury Road and Atomic Blonde for this Netflix film adaptation of the 2017 comic book series from co-creator Greg Rucka. The action fantasy is about a group of immortal mercenaries who battle evil villains throughout the millennia to save humanity and reshape the course of history. Their identity is exposed just as a new member enters their ranks.
In some ways, The Old Guard has the feel of a sloppier, clumsier knockoff of the Marvel and DC franchises, with all of the expected heroes, non-stop action and choreographed fight scenes. But director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees) makes her action film unique in several interesting ways. Most obvious is its clever premise, incorporating figures in ancient history, and in its female-led protagonists. In addition to Theron, KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) plays a U.S. soldier who becomes a reluctant new immortal after surviving a brutal killing in modern day Afghanistan. The film also takes on a more emotionally introspective look at the heartache of immortality – it’s sad living forever when your loved ones don’t – and features an impressive love story between two of the male immortals that puts the anemic LGBTQ nod in Avengers: Endgame to shame.
Despite all the feels, there is still plenty of silliness and comic relief to be found. And while parts of the film borrow a little too much from Theron’s Furiosa character in Mad Max: Fury Road – even recycling a couple of that movie’s key catch phrases – the end result is a fantasy action flick that threads the needle in being both mindlessly fun while also being clever and introspective. And based on the post-ending teaser, there is much more to come.
• Charlize Theron, who has been in at least two movies per year since 2014, has said her character in The Old Guard is thousands of years old.
• After screen testing Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli to check their onscreen chemistry, Theron and story co-creator Greg Rucka say they knew Marwan’s big monologue about “his boyfriend” would be great. Said Theron: “It came from such a deep place within him. It was undeniable he just sold it, really feeling that way.”