“The Old Guard” Brings A Rock-Solid Summer Blockbuster To Netflix


At least in 2020, going to the theater for a rollicking summer blockbuster is not a thing. It just isn’t. Part of the summer movie season is the feeling of watching a big budget flick with a cold drink, some popcorn, and the air-conditioning blasting as a refrain from the heat. Without that, there does seem to be a gaping hole for cinema lovers. Well, Netflix is stepping up, not with the feeling of being in a theater, but with a quality would-be blockbuster in The Old Guard, which fits just what you want out of a July release.

The film is an action epic, based on the comic book of the same name. The title refers to a small group of covert mercenaries with a secret that has made them unbeatable in battle. Simply put, they don’t seem to be able to die, allowing them, under the leadership of a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), to protect the world for centuries (or even much longer, in Andy’s case). For the longest time, it has just been Andy, Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), but that’s about to change. After the team is recruited to take on an new mission and their abilities are exposed by former CIA operative Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), they also have a vision of a new immortal in American marine Nile (Kiki Layne). Recruited by Andy, she reluctantly joins up, learning about the group and their history in the process. They’re going to need the new member, too, as a sociopathic pharmaceutical executive in Merrick (Harry Melling) is planning to replicate and monetize their gifts, by any means necessary. Gina Prince-Bythewood directs a screenplay by Greg Rucka, who also co-created the graphic novel. Supporting players include Joey Ansah, Anamaria Marinca, Van Veronica Ngo, and many more. Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran teamed up to compose the score, while the cinematography is by both Barry Ackroyd, as well as Tami Reiker.

Between director Gina Prince-Bythewood and star Charlize Theron, there’s a nice added touch of classiness to a gory and violent product like this. There’s a sense of sophistication you just don’t usually find in this sort of thing. To be sure, there’s also plot holes and events that only occur because we’re in an action movie, but still, the way this often takes a higher-minded approach to the story is incredibly admirable. It goes a long way towards making sure you don’t feel like you’ve seen this sort of flick before. Credit to Prince-Bythewood’s rock-solid direction and Theron’s really strong performance (both emotionally and also physically) for pulling that off.

The Old Guard is notably diverse and even occasionally emotional, which is not what you usually get out of the genre. There’s gender balance, it isn’t just a bunch of white folks, and there’s even more than one sexual orientation represented. None of that makes the movie better on its own, but combining that with its effectiveness on other levels makes it a standout effort. Kudos to all involved for noticing that you could cast something like this in a different way than most Hollywood epics opt to go for. A little bit goes a long way, though obviously more work in the industry is still needed.

Now available on Netflix, The Old Guard is very effective and represents one of the better would be blockbusters that the streaming giant has ever put out. This is the right combination of their prestige sensibilities and their ability to find low art entertainment that pleases the masses. Obviously, this film is far from high art, but there’s nice touches that set it apart. Give it a look and you’ll clearly see why…

THE OLD GUARD (2020) – (L to R) Marwan Kenzari as Joe, Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Charlize Theron as Andy, Luca Marinelli as Nicky, Kiki Layne as Nile.
Photo Credit: AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX ©2020

Be sure to check out The Old Guard, streaming now on Netflix!

(Photos courtesy of Netflix)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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