To be clear, Netflix original The Old Guard is a ridiculous movie that has no reason to exist, but I love it anyway. Charlize Theron plays Andromache of Scythia, leader of a small band of immortal warriors with the ability to heal from any injury, no matter how fatal. Theron, admirably stubborn in her refusal to admit that she might be too good for this movie, brings what I can only describe as depressed-Jason-Bourne energy to the role, alternately chugging vodka, kicking ass, and staring off into the distance while delivering epic monologues about the crushing weight of her 5000 years of life.
Joining her are Booker, an ex-Napoleonic soldier whose only character trait seems to be a love of old books, and Joe and Nickie – star-crossed lovers who ran away together during the Crusades. The motley crew, we’re told, were brought together by a series of prophetic dreams that came upon them whenever a new immortal was born. Together, their army of four have spent millennia “fighting in the shadows” to make a better world for humanity, all while trying desperately to avoid discovery by human governments. Unfortunately for the world, Andromache is losing hope that their efforts have done any good, and is on the edge of giving up the fight in favor of an eternal retirement.
Enter Nile Freeman: a young American marine in Afghanistan, and brand new immortal, who counters Andy’s world-weary cynicism and unstoppable martial arts skills with youthful passion and naive inexperience. (Almost like she’s a purpose-written foil designed to remind her new mentor why they fight before taking up the torch, which wouldn’t be at all like every other action movie ever made, no…)
Once our heroes are established and they all duel each other for a bit to establish who the pack alpha is (Theron, obviously), the team head to London to do battle with Steven Merrick — a tech-bro supervillain with a strong Mark Zuckerberg resemblance who wants … uh … money, I guess?
They’ll also be fighting the CIA for some reason, but by this point in the movie I’ve stopped trying to understand the plot in favor of sitting back to enjoy the choreography of the action sequences.
And oh what action sequences they are. Remember, dear reader, that most action movies aren’t quite so willing to break the fourth wall as this gem of the genre. We, the audience, may know that the main character of an action flick can never die, but they don’t know that. As a result, our beloved heroes waste valuable screen time on silly things like ducking and the human fear of death. Not so with The Old Guard. Andy and her team have transcended so far beyond the normal rules of engagement that we need not fear for their safety, or the safety of pretty much any named character in this movie, because they’re all literally immortal.
Thus, we are free to sit back, relax, and enjoy the increasingly unlikely acrobatics demonstrated by Theron and her apprentice as they slay their way through hordes of CIA operatives and soulless corporate minutemen. (Which, let’s be honest, is all I really want from my action movies anyway, so it works surprisingly well.)
Yet that’s not even the best thing about this movie. The sound track? Impeccable. Andy’s weirdly intense relationship with that medieval axe she carries around in a violin case? 10/10. Our heroes’ bizarre choice to spend most of the film wearing white t-shirts despite the fact that they keep getting shot in the chest on a daily basis? I am in awe.
All joking aside, I actually kind of love this movie. Sure, it’s absolutely absurd, but it goes over the top on all the right notes. It has the entertainment value of a classic superhero flick coupled with spot-on casting, especially in the case of Theron as Andy and KiKi Layne as Nile. While their teammates are jostled out of the limelight a bit by Theron’s star power, Joe and Nickie still find time for some sweet on-screen moments, and the second half of the film packs some legitimate twists that put rival action franchises to shame. So as ridiculous as The Old Guard may be, I have a soft spot for its lovable team of undying oddballs, and I highly recommend that anyone who hasn’t yet had the privilege of seeing it, and its upcoming sequel, find time on a Friday night to sit down, open a laptop, and prepare to be amazed.
By Declan Bradley