The 400-Word Review: The Old Guard
By Sean Collier
July 10, 2020
As studio gambles go, attempting to start a franchise on the back of an unknown property is a risky bet.
Through ten years of so-so box office, studios have tried to launch hundreds of properties into the rarified air of Marvel, Star Wars and Harry Potter. The attempts have ranged from solid concepts executed poorly (the DC Extended Universe) to, well, bad ideas done badly (the Dark Universe). There are also, however, plenty of sturdy films that simply didn’t generate enough excitement to warrant a franchise.
I suspect “The Old Guard,” a serviceable, moseying action flick, will be remembered as just such a project. There’s nothing wrong with it; good cast, decent story, a bit of flair. Will the sequel(s) promised by the origin-story structure and the blatant cliffhanger see the light of day? I’d be surprised.
Andromache of Scythia (Charlize Theron), or Andy for short, is a millennia-old warrior who leads a band of do-gooders with a mysterious inability to die. There have been hiccups — Andy’s beloved colleague, Quynh (Veronica Ngo), has been locked in an iron coffin at the bottom of the ocean for quite some time, for one — but the group has successfully averted global disaster and tipped conflicts in the right direction for centuries.
Now, two developments threaten their stability: First, ex-CIA operative Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has figured out who they are, and is helping a mad scientist (Harry Melling) track them down. Second, there’s a new immortal on the block: Nile (KiKi Layne), a U.S. marine who just survived a gruesome death in Afghanistan. Andy will have to simultaneously secure the new recruit and fend off the advances of Copley and company if the group is to persist.
Yes, that’s a lot of story to get through in about two hours. Fortunately, director Gina Prince-Bythewood leaves plenty of time for character development, much of which is tender and thoughtful. While “The Old Guard” wanders, it doesn’t drag. There’s something inherently clunky about trying to tell two full stories in a movie that also exists to set up a future chapter; cumbersome though that is, Prince-Bythewood carries it.
Most importantly: Theron and Layne are a dream team, an established (and action-ready) titan of Hollywood and a captivating rising star. I’m not sure if “The Old Guard” will earn a sequel; if it does, the combined charisma of these two will carry it.
My Rating: 7/10
“The Old Guard” is streaming on Netflix.