With cinemas still not up to speed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and new film releases few and far between, it is largely up to streaming services to drip feed feature-length entertainment. We have had a few movies here and there (The Story of Fire Saga, Artemis Fowl etc), but one of the latest and best is The Old Guard, an action-adventure film which arrived on Netflix on Friday.
Based on the comic book of the same name, The Old Guard follows a team of immortal mercenaries led by Charlize Theron, who cross paths with an unethical pharmaceutical company. The company use whatever means necessary to capture the team, with the ultimate goal of unlocking the secrets behind their unique gifts.
Now I’m not going to beat around the bush here, The Old Guard is a great film. The action scenes alone are enough to sell the heck out of this picture, and if you love Bourne-style fisticuffs then the expertly choreographed fight sequences will grab your attention.
What will then keep your attention is the world building/mythology which fleshes out the story, as well as the casting. Everyone is excellent in this picture.
Theron has nailed every part that she has taken, and her role here is no different. She brings both confidence and sensitivity to the role of lead immortal, Andy; playing a Wolverine-like figure, who can heal her body, but not her mental scars.
If we see more Old Guard movies – and I really hope we do – I can’t wait to see Theron’s journey with this character. And if we don’t see any more of these movies, then she at least joins 2020’s expanding list of bloody awesome lead actresses (See: Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man and Betty Gilpin in The Hunt).
As for the rest of the cast, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli, are all strong in their roles as fellow immortals, while Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb as a former CIA agent who has been tracking the team. Just like Theron, Ejiofor is a brilliant actor, with an attention-grabbing screen presence, and once again I am intrigued to know where his character goes next.
I’m not familiar with the comic that this film is based on, so this is all new territory for me. Part of me wants to pick up the comic so I can discover more, while the other part of me simply wants to be surprised IF we get a sequel.
I think it’s important to note that Greg Rucka, one of the book’s co-creators, penned the screenplay for The Old Guard and regardless of my familiarity with the material, I believe this adds authenticity to the adaptation. But I must also give praise to the director, Gina Prince-Bythewood for delivering a confident picture and one that is not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve.
Whether intended or not, this is a picture which bathes in the waters of Blade, Highlander, Salt, Resident Evil, Mad Max, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name but a few. Some of these influences are minor, others are a little more prominent, but all can be felt and that means if you like some (or all) of the above, I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this film.
Sure, The Old Guard might feel a little bit like a hybrid at times, but it still manages to do its own thing, and quite successfully too. It held my attention from start to finish, something increasingly rare these days, and it got me invested in the characters.
By the time I reached the end of the movie, I was ready to see more. Netflix has a hit with this picture and it is arguably more appealing than some of the films the industry is using to re-launch/encourage cinema attendance.
The movie business, like so many businesses right now, is experiencing a significant period of change. In the pre-COVID-19 world, established franchises ruled the roost and Disney was obliterating the competition, but post-COVID-19 the balance is shifting in a different direction.
While the leading studios are holding on to their ‘event’ pictures, in the hope of a theatrical release in late 2020 or early 2021, Netflix is using this dead zone to prove that theatrical exhibition isn’t the be all and end all of movie making. And while it pains me to say it, as I adore going to the flicks, Netflix is making a very strong case for the reduction in theatrical releases AND is winning the battle.
I have largely been happy to wait for some of the big releases to hit cinema screens, but as time marches forward, my interest level is starting to wain. If The Old Guard is anything to go by, and by the same token last month’s The Story of Fire Saga which was also a high quality movie, I’m starting to shift my allegiances towards streaming as the default release platform.
The Old Guard might not have arrived on Netflix with all the big hoopla and fanfare usually associated with a summer blockbuster, but make no mistake, this is a summer blockbuster.
OK, so it’s not the full-on, explosion-heavy experience one might get from a Transformers film or The Fast and the Furious 76 (or whatever number we’re up to now), but it is certainly a film that delivers a strong mix of entertainment and enjoyment.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review of The Old Guard on It’s A Stampede!. For more movie-related posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.
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