'The Old Guard' Netflix Review: How Do You Kill The Unkillable?

'The Old Guard' Netflix Review: How Do You Kill The Unkillable?

A former US Marine unwillingly joins a band of immortal mercenaries. Now she has to save them all from a madman that wants to experiment on their immortality

There are very few action movies that take their characters seriously. One of the most egregious recent perpetrators of this fallacy was Netflix in Extraction. The approach for The Old Guard was markedly different, and it shows. Instead of a film that's Michael-Bay-esque in its depictions of violence without any plot, The Old Guard drags you in and makes you attached to its characters. Not only are the action scenes visceral and riveting, but the non-action exposition seems well-crafted. While the movie was based on a comic book series, it doesn't feel like a cotton-candy-ized version of the source material. It takes the comic's best moments and turns it into something unique and thrilling, even in a saturated field of entirely forgettable films. The Old Guard might be the start of a new franchise for Netflix.

This Ain't Your Scottish Highlander Immortals...

The film follows a group of mercenaries, each of which is supposedly immortal and has lived for hundreds of years. A new immortal comes to light, and the leader of the troupe Andromache of Scythia, affectionately called Andi by her teammates, sets out to recover this newly-minted immortal. Their status as being unkillable has brought them to the notice of a shady pharmaceutical company. It's owner attempts to kidnap the unkillable mercenaries with the help of one of their own number, to use their DNA to find a way to stop human disease and aging forever. As Andi's healing ability wanes and she faces death in the grip of this shady pharma lab, it's up to the team's newest member to prove she's worth it and get the rest of them out on time while she deals with her own lack of conviction.

Script: 6/10

The movie's plot doesn't have any particularly glaring holes in it. The character development is very well-rounded and surprisingly in-depth for an action movie. Aside from the initial setup where we're asked to believe in a band of immortal mercenaries trudging through time, righting wrongs as they see fit, it's nothing overly far-fetched. There aren't that many explosions, but the martial arts and hand-to-hand fights are well-choreographed. Andi becomes a whirlwind of death on more than one occasion. However, as I noted before, the depth of this film's script isn't just the action. The characters seem to have a purpose, and despite not knowing their overarching reason for being unkillable, they make the best of their situation.

Cast: 7/10

Nile and Andi Mix it Up

Charlize Theron's return to the screen as the immortal Andi makes quite a splash, and the casting was perfect. As we meet the other members of the team, Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Nicky (Luca Marinelli), and Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), we get glimpses into their pasts that help us to understand their characters. While none of the other team members are genuinely central to the plot, each actor makes their role seem real. Kiki Layne does a fantastic job as Nile, the newest immortal and the character we're supposed to identify with. Supporting tech Copely (Chiwetel Ejiofor) could use a little work because he seems a bit standoffish in his role. Harry Melling, as Big Bad Harry Merrick, looks a bit out of place, and his character switches between a greedy corporate pig and an altruistic researcher enough times to throw the audience off his real goal. All in all, however, the cast is solid, and the roles are suitable.

Pacing: 8/10

With most action movies, the time between battle sequences is the hardest to get through. This occurrence usually happens because action movie plots are as thin as toilet paper. The Old Guard is an exception in this sense. There's no forced dialogue between characters, and the flashbacks aren't overbearing. They color the characters, instead of defining them. It's clear that director Gina Prince-Bythewood was versed in the lore of the world, and helps viewers who haven't had any experience with the comic book come to grips with what we're watching. There are no boring monologues or ten-minute flashback sequences. When the characters do speak to each other, it feels genuine and builds the bonds between them instead of just being witty one-liner throwaway dialog. The action scenes utilize both gunplay and hand-to-hand melee weapon combat. There's even swords and axes. Even the most discerning fans of action flicks will likely be pleased by the violence on display.

Composition: 7/10

The movie is gritty, and the characters are understandable (if not wholly believable). The cast fits together nicely (with a few exceptions here and there). The premise carries the movie through to the end while remaining relevant to the plot. While it might be a concern about how the audience can worry about characters who can't die, the story approaches it from a unique angle. You never feel like The Old Guard is trying to do too much or ask a lot of you as a viewer. The subtle exposition that runs as an undercurrent throughout the film might be missed on the first watch. Still, the lore is layered within the movie itself, and it takes a couple of trips through it to truly appreciate what the director was trying to do. As far as action movies go, this is the best I've seen this year from Netflix.

Andi - The Killing Machine

Overall: 7/10

As someone who takes their action flicks like others take cough syrup (in short, bitter doses), this film is a refreshing change to the usual action flick fare. The director experiments with complex character development, and the story approaches this decades-old formula from a new direction. The cast clicks and operates like a finely oiled machine, and the underlying lore, along with just the right amount of time dedicated to exposition, offers a brilliant film. If you're a fan of action movies, you'll probably enjoy this one (unless you prefer explosions every five minutes, in which case give it a miss). If you're a dan of drama, you'll also like this movie, since it incorporates elements into it that gives it a remarkable amount of depth. As a character-driven narrative, few recent films can come close to it in any genre. It's a definite watch for me.

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