REVIEW: THE OLD GUARD delivers great action set-pieces and a unique comic adaptation with an international flair.


Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and writer Greg Rucka’s adaptation of his Image Comics’ graphic novel series stays true to the source and benefits immensely from a dedicated performance from Charlize Theron and a strong international ensemble cast.

Comic book movies seem to have hit this level in popular culture where just that phrase evokes hundred million dollar budgets, massive mandatory CGI, and the inability to tell a story where nothing less than the fate of all humanity is at stake. It’s refreshing to see a graphic novel adaptation like Gina Prince-Bythewood and writer Greg Rucka’s THE OLD GUARD, debuting on Netflix on July 10th, take a different tack in adapting a property with an intriguing concept with a stripped-down power-set to ground the story. Based on Rucka’s Image Comics’ series, THE OLD GUARD follows Andy (Charlize Theron), the leader of a small band of four immortal soldiers who operate in the margins of history to balance the scales as soldiers of fortune with a conscience. Andy and her fellow soldiers are something akin to a mix between Marvel Comics’ Wolverine and the Highlander; when one of her soldiers dies for the first time, they are essentially quickened and psychically attuned to their fellow immortals and gain access to a healing factor that makes them functionally unkillable. It’s this scenario that we witness firsthand when Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne), a U.S. Marine stationed in Afghanistan, is killed by a would-be Taliban bomber. Finding herself mysteriously alive with no scars after her supposed death, Andy and her teammates Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Nicky (Luca Marinelli), and James (Marwan Kenzari) just having been ambushed by a once-trusted CIA contact named Copley (Chiwitel Ejiofor) struggle whether to recover Nile or lay low from the forces of Copley and his employer Merrick (Harry Melling), a pharma bro who has designs on them for his own purposes.

In many ways, THE OLD GUARD reminds me of something like the first BLADE movie from 1999, where the concept and star drive the film, which is very much that case with Theron and her role as Andromache the Scythian, or Andy. Andy has led the Old Guard for millennia, but is haunted by the loss of one of her own and sees Nile’s ascendance as an opportunity to set her on the right path and let go of her grief in this role of mentor. Theron commands the screen whenever she is featured, especially in eye-catching hand to hand and stunt setpieces that recall her work on Fury Road or Atomic Blonde. Likewise, Layne’s Nile is a character archetype that’s become old hat from overexposure, the know-it-all newcomer, but Layne inhabits Nile with a sense of authenticity and determination. She reacts how a real person might in the circumstances and wants to go back to her family rather than join a band of mercenaries at the first open opportunity. Marinelli and Kenzari also provide a touch of authenticity and representation as their characters are also in a millennia long dedicated relationship that gives them a sense of purpose to continue to thrive and look for justice in the world around them. Melling’s Merrick proves a capable antagonist with well-established goals and pathos. Director Prince-Bythwood, having worked on Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, gives the film a strong sense of scope and grounded perspective for the action setpieces and Rucka’s script gives them the film good pacing with strong character work throughout. The film’s ending is definitely set-up with the hopes of making this a continuing franchise with the script leaving plenty of world-building to draw from for future installments. One of the disappointments is we are given glimpses of the team in past incarnations throughout different eras, but most of the footage is served in brief montages with voiceover. Overall, THE OLD GUARD is entertaining, a clever chimera of action and a comic book movie with the scope and pathos of a latter-day Bond film.

The final word on THE OLD GUARD is if you enjoy character-driven action films in the vein of Jason Bourne, Atomic Blonde, or the Daniel Craig era of 007 with a high concept that is fun, check out THE OLD GUARD. It’s the summer popcorn action film you’ve missed out on this summer and you can catch it at home starting on the 10th on Netflix.