It would be a good idea to avoid getting on Charlize Theron’s bad side. If her prowess in the fine art of kick-assery in recent films like Atomic Blonde and Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t enough proof, The Old Guard will cement the idea forever in your mind.
Based on the comic book series by Greg Rucka (who also wrote the screenplay), the latest Netflix original features Theron as Andy (actually, Andromache of Scythe), a centuries-old, immortal warrior in the modern-day world who has been leading a band of not-so-merry men throughout history. (She dates back to Ancient Greece, the boys only as far back as the Crusades.) Their mission? To right wrongs and prevent catastrophes, of course.
And they do. The Old Guard is a fists- (and bullets)-of-fury, uber-violent, globetrotting escapade, and the way that Theron what might have been a rather pedestrian action-thriller into something memorable highlights once again her undisputed ability to light up a movie (nay, television) screen. (And I’m not just saying that on the off chance that she happens to read this.)
At first, The Old Guard gang seems like a standard action-movie group of killers who farm their services out to the highest bidder, but then, when they’re ambushed and killed in a hail of gunfire— well, that’s when things get interesting. After a brief pause, bullets pop back out through their skin, wounds heal, and they stand up to wreak furious vengeance on their assailants. Ain’t immortality great?
Of course there’s a greedy pharmaceutical honcho (Harry Melling) behind the ambush, vowing to stop at nothing in his mission to get a sample of the immortal DNA and exploit it. And of course the whole film is a countdown to the inevitable confrontation, but The Old Guard distinguishes itself from its largely cheeseball predecessors thanks to a stellar bit of direction by Gina Prince-Bythewood (who, not incidentally, became the first black woman to direct a comic book movie in the process).
Hopping from Morocco to South Sudan to Afghanistan to Paris, the action rarely drags (though, yes, a handful of minutes could have been chopped from the film’s two-hour-plus runtime), and Prince-Bythewood wraps everything up in a fairly tight package, punctuated by snazzy fight sequences and some nifty camera work.
In front of the camera, though, The Old Guard is entirely Theron’s show. Combining Jason Bourne, John Wick, and Ethan Hunt into one very lethal person, she elevates the film considerably and is buoyed by a solid supporting cast, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, KiKi Layne, and Matthias Schoenaerts. And while Melling goes further over the top than he needs to (even for a Dr. Evil role), this is a comic book movie, after all, so it’s not fatal by any stretch.
What is definitely fatal are the dozens of different manners employed by Andy and her team to dispatch the bad guys, and there’s no shortage of creativity there. The Old Guard is a bloody good time.