Action movies with loads of gunfights, swordfights and explosions don’t normally leave a lot of breathing room for pesky things like plot or character development. Yes, there’s usually some semblance of a backstory for main characters – generally told in flashbacks – at least enough to glean why they are doing what they do. And, of course, there’s always a plot, even if it’s just a vehicle to move from one expensive action sequence to the next.

The Old Guard, Netflix’s adaptation of the Greg Rucka graphic novel of the same name, is certainly an action movie with all the aforementioned trappings. But it’s also so much more. Not only in the blending of the action/fantasy genres, but in the deft handling of its themes and character development.

The Old Guard tells the story of a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die. Or, at least, stay dead when they are killed. Led by Andy (Charlize Theron), backed up by Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), the Guard have fought to protect humans for centuries, mostly from themselves.

Andy, having long since tired of humanity’s determination to be the absolute worst at everything, is pulled out of a quasi-hiatus by Booker for an emergency mission, during which the team and their extraordinary abilities are exposed. Now, they have to hunt down and eliminate those who are trying to steal their abilities for profit, as well as guide the young and reluctant Nile (Kiki Layne), the latest immortal soldier to join their ranks.

At one point, newbie Nile asks the group if they’re the good guys or the bad guys, to which Nicky responds, “depends on the century”. What sounds like a pithy quip for the trailer is actually the crux of what the group faces. They fight for what they believe is right, but history is determined by the winners.

The oldest of them, Andy, is bitterly jaded by centuries of fighting and dying for a humanity that couldn’t care less, a humanity that would demonise and ostracise them at every turn. Theron carries the weight of Andy’s lengthy service as an immortal impeccably, with world-weary heavy sighs and the almost-physical pain of staying true to her course visible in every motion. Grief and determination mark her features and her performance, making it yet another role you couldn’t imagine anyone else but Theron in.

Taking her cue from Rucka’s source material, director Gina Prince-Bythewood allows the film to have ample breathing room between the explosive action. The rest of the cast have their tangible moments, and while none are as explored as Andy’s backstory (or directly witnessed in the case of Nile), each team member (old and new) have their moments to shine.

The Old Guard also has representation where it matters. There’s a great diversity in the group, which for major points is led by a woman, with a mix of nationalities, ethnicities and sexual orientations which show up as naturally as breathing.

All this focus on the compelling characters does mean that The Old Guard has a longer than normal runtime, which in some areas borders on slowing down the pacing too much for a solid action film, but the payoff is worth it by the third act thanks to the emotional investment you find you have.

When the action does get going, it goes hard. The gunfights are impressive, but the brutal, visceral hand to hand combat (or the combination of both) is where these scenes really shine. When you’ve got a group of mercenaries that have trained for millennia, watching them cut loose is a heart-pounding experience. This is combined with the very subtle use of CGI on the immortal’s wounds as we get to watch them being injured and healed in a seemingly never-ending cycle. It’s always good to watch a fantasy movie where overblown CGI isn’t the focus.

Unfortunately, I found The Old Guard slightly hamstrung by the genre it finds itself in. When you have a comic book movie, certain types of character arcs and story beats are almost expected at this point. While Prince-Bythewood and Co. handle these tropes refreshingly well, they are nevertheless, tropes.

There’s the point of having a new Guard in the place of audience, who becomes both the catalyst and dumping ground for exposition, as well as the rallying point for the tormented heroes who have to learn to care about humanity again.

The main villain was alas, a parody of a cartoonish, moustache-twirling evil, which was all around a lame effort – though I can’t fault Harry Melling for his performance. He plays up the snivelling pathetic Merrick as the antithesis of the Guard – weak where they are strong, motivated by greed where they have discipline. It’s just a cringey character you’re meant to hate, and perhaps they did the job too well.

Despite those relatively minor drawbacks, The Old Guard is definitely worth your time. Plenty of action combined with plenty of thought-provoking character journeys makes for a deep and introspective, if lengthy, comic-book film.

Last Updated: July 13, 2020

Despite the trappings of a typical comic book to screen adaptation, The Old Guard is filled with visceral action, compelling characters, and a story interesting enough to leave you hoping the sequel that is hinted at will be made soon.
70/ 100


  1. MechMachine

    July 13, 2020 at 12:51

    Worth a watch.


  2. Llama In The Rift

    July 13, 2020 at 12:52

    Damn….Dudley from the Harry Potter movies has sure grown, had to double check that was him.

    Sure do feel old now.


    • Metal Rabbit

      July 13, 2020 at 14:38

      Wait that’s DUDLEY?? Holy moly donut shop


      • Kervyn Cloete

        July 13, 2020 at 14:43

        Yeah, I couldn’t place him but he looked so familiar so I checked it out on IMDB. I was shook.


      • Llama In The Rift

        July 13, 2020 at 14:58

        Yup, hence why i checked up on IMDb to double check i’m not imagining things….it’s those eyes of him that gave it away, remember those eyes all to well from the first Potter movie….glad the dude got out and made a career in acting, that Harry Potter stigmata is a hard thing to escape from, especially if you were a child actor known for one specific role.


  3. Alien Emperor Trevor

    July 13, 2020 at 15:15

    I enjoyed this for the cool action and main characters, but that plot was so illogical and filled with conveniences, the music was bad most of the time, and that pasty weak-chinned mop-headed lisping pathetic excuse for a villain was the worst I’ve seen in ages.


  4. Kenn Gibson

    July 13, 2020 at 11:28

    I thought it was a great action film, loved the world building and love the fact that they set up a sequel so well. The entire cast was great!


    • For the Emperor!

      July 13, 2020 at 13:50

      And the setup did not feel forced or that they left this movie incomplete in order to “justify” a second! Some movies leave a bad taste in how they do this, Old Guard did not 🙂


      • Kenn Gibson

        July 13, 2020 at 14:58

        Yeah, it stands as a solo movie so well, no need for a sequel. The tie in at the end makes me very interested to see what they do next though.


  5. Gary

    July 13, 2020 at 11:39

    Very much enjoyed this movie with how things were done differently and the chemistry all round.
    I agree with the villain.
    It’s also on my Netflix downloads for loadshedding


  6. Mark Treloar

    July 13, 2020 at 18:02

    It’s good background noise, but poorly written to be really good


  7. For the Emperor!

    July 13, 2020 at 14:19

    I found the movie fun and am looking forward to any possible sequel. Though will say some of the action scenes you could see the actors waiting for the timing so some (only some) scenes didn’t flow nicely in my opinion. But no part of the movie was bad for me.

    No woke-ness or SJW stuff that I could see…or it was so well written and executed that it did not feature at all as something to focus on…it just flowed naturally 🙂


  8. Kervyn Cloete

    July 13, 2020 at 14:40

    I enjoyed this way more than I expected to. Fantastic and brutal action choreography, and it helps that you can see the actors put in the work themselves instead of relying on stunt doubles too much, who then have to be hidden by editing.

    My biggest gripe was the lame villain (WHAT’S UP WITH THE HOODIES UNDER THE SUIT JACKETS?!) and that I actually found Andy and Nile, i.e. the two leads, to be the least interesting of the cast. Far more invested in the rest.

    It didn’t blow me away thanks to some pacing and scripting issues as well, but I still enjoyed it overall. Enough that I would definitely be down for the obvious sequel.


  9. Son of Banana Jim

    July 15, 2020 at 01:38

    This was not a good movie… what really annoyed me was the lack of chemistry between Nile and Charlize’s character, and let’s not even talk about the damn dialogue… :/


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