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Review: The Old Guard (2020)

My faith in Netflix has been restored!

For months now, I’ve had to endure one terrible Netflix original movie after another. To say my faith in the platform’s idea of “quality content” is shaken, is an understatement. I genuinely thought Netflix had lost all notion of what a good, or even mildly entertaining, movie was. However, if there’s anyone who could break the cycle of horrendous releases, it’s undoubtedly Charlize Theron. Theron and her supernova starpower have singlehandedly given me hope that Netflix is still capable of producing worthwhile movies. Of course, it helps that The Old Guard (2020) is brilliantly directed, fairly intriguing and features a charismatic cast. You guys, it’s a Netflix movie that actually looks and feels like a real movie!

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Based on the comic book of the same name, The Old Guard follows a team of immortal mercenaries led by Andy, a warrior who is centuries old. When a corrupt businessman seeks to use their DNA for his own purposes, the team goes on a revenge mission to rescue kidnapped members of their own.

Admittedly, “action” is my least favourite genre of movie. If I’m going to watch a movie filled with fighting, explosions, and bloodshed, I at least want it to be a fantasy epic or a superhero adventure. To my surprise, The Old Guard is a well-balanced combination of both those types of movies. You get a touch of the supernatural with having the antagonists be immortal warriors, and the camaraderie of this extraordinary team feels like something out of X-Men (2000). The strongest element of The Old Guard is definitely how unique it is. What could have been just a barrage of mindless fight scene after mindless fight scene, is actually a poignant, genuinely interesting, wonderfully original movie that delivers countless stunning action sequences as well. The Old Guard is a breathe of fresh air not only for Netflix, but for the action genre as a whole. The credit for the movie’s success has to go to the screenwriter, Greg Rucka (who also wrote the comic book), and director, Gina Prince-Blythewood.

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Credit: / Netflix

For someone not primarily known as being a screenwriter, Rucka crafts a phenomenally written movie. Before watching, the premise piqued my interest and through his riveting story, I remained interested for much of the movie. The otherworldly element was what drew me in, but it’s Rucka’s superb storytelling that kept me engrossed in the movie. He shows instead of telling practically everything, so we learn about the characters, consequences, and plot in an organic way. He also wisely never gives any information away too prematurely. The movie is well-paced and I appreciated that it didn’t dump a ton of expositional backstory on the audience within the first five minutes. The Old Guard gives viewers the chance to be genuinely interested in the heroes, and will ensure your eyes remained glued to the screen. I myself couldn’t stop watching because I was eagerly anticipating learning more about the history and origins of the immortals. The movie drips with intrigue and and will appeal to any viewer with a healthy sense of curiosity.

The Old Guard will also appeal to anyone with a love for excitement. For her first venture into action, Prince-Blythewood completely knocks it out of the park. Featuring everything from a good ol’ fashioned fistfight, to underground explosions, the action in The Old Guard is mind-blowing to watch. What makes it so awesome is that it’s all excellently choreographed and practical. No CGI, no crazy effects, no confusing cuts…there were like, seven cuts to show one character getting up from a table which was weird though. The movie has a genuine, authentic, action-adventure feel to it that’s reminiscent of countless classic action movies. These heart-pounding fight sequences will keep you on the edge of your seat. I’m also high-key impressed that in the midst of all this over the top action, Prince-Blythewood is able to tell a grounded, character-driven story as well.

You guys, Charlize Theron is so powerful. She is one of the coolest actresses around. Always so amazing and fascinating in every movie she’s in, Theron is magnetic. As Andy, Theron is a complete and total badass. Both when she’s literally kicking ass, and emotionally as well. She’s utterly captivating as this centuries-old warrior, and you can really feel her anguish and frustration with the situation she’s in. Theron plays each of Andy’s intense emotions with subtlety, doing a fantastic job of conveying centuries of heartache with a single glance. Unflappable, collected, invincible, Theron knows how to play it all. Oh! You know what I really want? For her to play 007. You could totally see it, right?

I especially enjoyed Theron’s back and forth with Kiki Layne, who plays Nile, a newcomer to the group of immortals. Nile is so resistant to being an immortal (despite not having a choice) and questions everything, and Andy is so breezy and intent on catching her up to speed as quickly as possible. The pair are a lot of fun to watch together and share a wonderful chemistry. Seeing them share an emotional beat, dish out snappy one-liners, or fight side by side is thoroughly entertaining.¬†Considering I’ve only seen her as the reserved, romantic Tish in If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) – check out my review, here – I was blown away by how well Layne adapted to the action genre. She plays a militant marine extremely convincingly, and I would happily pay money to see her in future action flicks. Oh, no spoilers, but something tells me we’ll DEFINITELY be seeing a sequel to this movie sometime soon. Wink, wink.

Oh my God, you know what one of the most pleasant surprises of The Old Guard was? A prominent gay romance! Joe and Nicky, two members of the immortals, share a centuries-old relationship and I absolutely loved how the movie handled it. LGBT+ love stories aren’t common in the action genre, so to see one that is treated the same as any other relationship would be, and with such passion, realism, and complete badass-ness, was wonderful. Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli, who play Joe and Nicky respectively, are total scene-stealers. Their chemistry is palpable, and I sure hope there’s a sequel because I need more of this pairing. Ooooh, a spin-off maybe? I also loved that Netflix spent the money and actually filmed on location on Morocco! It’s so simple, but it really gives the movie a cinematic shine that makes the whole thing more enjoyable. It also makes for some gorgeous cinematography. The only thing that bothered me about The Old Guard is the runtime. At two hours, it’s a smidgen too long and only would have benefitted from being shorter and more concise.

Definitely check out The Old Guard. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Whether you’re a fan of action movies or not, rest assured that it has a little something for everyone. You guys, I can’t stress this enough: It’s a Netflix movie that’s GOOD. Really let that sink in.

Have you seen The Old Guard? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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