17th Jul2020

‘The Old Guard’ Review (Netflix Original)

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Charlize Theron, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinell, KiKi Layne, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Natacha Karam, Mette Towley, Anamaria Marinca, Micheal Ward | Written by Greg Rucka | Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

Immortality hasn’t been this cool since the Highlander, and who doesn’t want to live forever anyway? In The Old Guard Charlize Theron plays Andy, an immortal warrior who leads a team of soldiers, all as immortal as she is. After the teams latest job goes bad, their secret is discovered and could be the end of the team all together.

The action movie genre has three real leads right now, ones that both champion the spirit and brutality that audiences want. One is Keanu Reeves who has had an incredible renaissance over recent years, one is Tom Cruise who just gets better with age, and the other is Charlize Theron, who once again proves why action has now become her calling card. It’s only fitting that she is the lead of the team, she embodies the old warrior, one who is struggling to find what there’s left in the world to live for. She also embodies the leader, both in performance and in nature of her experience behind the scenes. You can only imagine that the wealth of knowledge she has gained over the years rubbed off on her supporting cast members, as I felt all of them lived up to her lead performance. It is Theron’s performance however, in both the quiet moments and especially the action scenes that made the film so enjoyable to watch. With films such as this, Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road, and a role in Fast & Furious 8, Charlize Theron epitomises the action star and understands that it’s all in the performance, that the fights are as important as the dramatic beats. She understands something so many action stars have lost, you have to keep acting even when you’re in the middle of an action set piece (maybe somebody needs to tell Mark Wahlberg this).

The team is made up of Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Nicky (Luca Marinell) and new-comer Nile (KiKi Layne), all of whom give stellar performances in both the quiet scenes and louder action set pieces. The quieter scenes are where the film struggles to find its feet the most, and takes a while for The Old Guard to find the path it wishes to walk on. When the action does hit, it hits hard and it’s wonderfully showcased by director Gina Prince-Bythewood, although it takes a while for the action to really get going. The film fully takes off with a fist fight in the air and the action gets stronger from there. The action is brutal and inventive, it takes its time to show you the action and there is no horrible shaky cam to spoil what’s going on. The set pieces get bigger as the film goes on and although the characters are all immortal, the director does a wonderful job of still making the scenes feel tense by giving them stakes.

The Old Guard has its faults, one being a pantomime villain who wears a hoodie under a blazer, a villain trope that I look forward to seeing die out. Along with the weak villain, is some questionable writing in the first act as it lacks a sense or purpose, direction and even character building. Once the film does start to dive into the characters it gets a whole lot more interesting and I enjoyed every moment the team was together. The slow start leads to a huge problem that a lot of action movies of this type are having now days: they’re just too long. A lot of recent action movies have struggled with pacing and could have twenty minutes easily cut out, this is the case for The Old Guard. Some of the best recent action movies all come under the two hour mark, films like John Wick, The Raid, Upgrade, Dredd, Baby Driver and Edge of Tomorrow. These films all fly at you with amazing pace – just what an action film needs. Of course the rule doesn’t apply to all, Mad Max: Fury Road hit the two hour mark and is a true masterpiece, but films like that have a different cinematic style and language to those such as The Old Guard and films like it need that twenty minutes cut off to help improve the films quality.

The Old Guard is also missing a killer soundtrack, there’s no Queen to take us through this immortal ride. The films soundtrack did appeal to me and worked well at times, however the music never stayed for long enough periods, at times the perfect needle drop would hit, but then be cut far too short. Other than these few nit picks, which is all they really are, the film is tons of fun and provided some great entertainment. The death scenes feel like an x-rated X-Men movie, where every member of the team is Wolverine. It’s a fun watch and hopefully they can create a better villain, when they no doubt make the sequel.

*** 3/5

The Old Guard is available to stream on Netflix now.

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