Although its moniker feels ancient, The Old Guardbrings a ton of fresh perspectives into the action thriller genre. Gina Prince-Blythewood, a director who has received acclaim for Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights, was an inspired choice to helm the feature, and I never envisioned If Beale Street Could Talk’s KiKi Layne anchoring this movie. We are conditioned to see such films directed by a male filmmaker with a bankable male action veteran with maybe a younger, charismatic male actor as the vet’s sidekick; so it’s refreshing to see whenever a film goes an entirely different direction. Basically, there are very few things that are “old” about this movie.
Andy (Charlize Theron) is the head of a group of mercenaries who do their job to affect humanity in a positive fashion. Although they each are adept at weapons and killing their enemies at a high clip, their warrior ethic is rooted in the best of intentions. Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) is Andy’s colleague and confidante, and when he talks about a dangerous mission offered by a relative stranger named Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), she begrudgingly decides to take the job.
Rounding out Andy’s crew are Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), two guys who are joined at the hip even though they actually killed it each other numerous times during The Crusades (Joe is Muslim and Nicky is Christian). This foursome have a plethora of experience since all of them are immortal. Nile (KiKi Layne) is a U.S. soldier who also has this power, and the team attempt to track her down and get her acquainted with their tight knit unit.
If you are an action buff, The Old Guardhas enough sequences to keep you satisfied, and watching Theron kick ass once again (she was the best part of Atomic Blonde) is worth your time. The biggest surprise lies in Layne’s performance, as she convincingly portrays Nile’s complex transition into this rarefied existence.
Based on the graphic novel from Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, The Old Guard’s origin story is highly compelling and immersive, and learning about Andy’s past (without giving anything away) is one of the story’s most interesting aspects. Amidst all the fast paced fighting and gunplay, the picture’s most standout sequence was actually a confrontation between KiKi Layne and Charlize Theron aboard a plane (Layne holds her own against Theron, and she has the chops to anchor more action and comic book driven features down the road). This is not a knock against director Gina Prince-Blythewood, as the best parts of The Old Guard lies when the stakes get downright dirty and personal.
Although these individuals can never die, they are still faced with a power hungry villain (Harry Melling) who could turn them into lab rats for the rest of their lives. He is the weakest aspect of the film, as this antaognist is too paper thin and predictable for the story’s own good. Aside from that flaw, The Old Guard, running at 125 minutes, is a highly entertaining and engaging affair that is well worth your time. It is a given that Charlize Theron and Matthias Schoenaerts would knock their respective roles out of the park, but it’s great to see \KiKi Layne and Gina Prince-Blythewood also bring a ton of excellence to the material.
As a comic book fan, I will hit my local store to purchase a copy of the graphic novel, and I’m eagerly awaiting the inevitable sequel. There is so much more story to cover in this universe, but thankfully The Old Guard is off to an audacious start.