The Old Guard (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A fairly refreshing superhero flick from Netflix

Netflix movie “The Old Guard”, which was released on last Friday, is a fairly refreshing superhero flick which actually tries a number of different things within its by-the-numbers origin story. While it is rather predictable at times, the movie is rich and engaging in terms of story and characters, and it also surely provides us some well-made action sequences to be savored.

At first, the movie, which is based on the comic book of same name by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, looks like another average action flick featuring a bunch of mercenaries. Under the strong leadership of a woman named Andy (Charlize Theron), three other persons including her right-hand guy Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) gather together, and they soon prepare for another dangerous task, which is given to them by an ex-CIA operative named James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

During the following sequence, we see how Andy and her group swiftly sneak into the target site and then quickly try to accomplish their task, but, alas, they soon find themselves in a trap which exposes their true identity. For some unknown reason still mysterious even to them, they cannot possibly get killed, and they surely surprise their opponents shortly after getting shot a lot. They look like being dead, but they soon regain their consciousness as their bodies get automatically healed, and then they promptly take care of their opponents.

It subsequently turns out that there is someone quite eager to delve into the secret of the immortality of Andy and her men. Steven Merrick (Harry Melling), an obnoxious lad who also happens to be the CEO of a powerful global pharmaceutical company, wants to capture Andy and her bunch by any means necessary, and he is certainly looking for getting another big fat profit from whatever can be extracted from them.

While clearly discerning that they should be a lot more careful than before, Andy and her people begin to experience something familiar to all of them. Whenever somebody turns out to be immortal somewhere in the world, they have a telepathic dream on that person in question, and that person is a young US marine soldier named Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne), who is naturally perplexed about how the hell she did not die despite getting seriously injured in the middle of her latest mission.

Although her colleagues think they should stay low as much as possible, Andy decides to find and then recruit their new colleague right now, and we soon see her approaching to Nile, who has been quite confused as being ostracized from others around her in addition to having a recurring dream on Andy and other immortals. Although their first encounter is not so pleasant to say the least, Nile eventually comes to accept her new status, and she eventually agrees to go along with Andy to a safe house where the other immortals are waiting for her.

During its middle part, the movie lets us get to know its main characters more. While they all can be mortal someday as reflected by one brief flashback scene involved with one of Andy’s former colleagues, there is still no way of knowing when that will happen, and they have no choice but to move on from one battle to another while distancing themselves from mortals. They want to believe that they have contributed some good to the world as fighting for justice, but Andy frankly admits at one point that she has a growing doubt as getting tired of more injustices and miseries around the world.

And they have had no one but each other for many decades. In case of Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), they have been lovers for several hundred years, and it is really poignant to see these two tough dudes sincerely confirming their strong and ever-lasting love to each other later in the story, which surely beats anything in those Twilight flicks or any superficial moment of token sexual minority characters in major superhero flicks.

In the end, the movie moves back onto its action mode as expected, but it steadily holds our attention via its competent presentation of physical actions on the screen, and director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who previously drew my attention with “The Secret Life of Bees” (2008) and “Beyond the Lights” (2014), and her crew members including cinematographers Tami Reiker and Barry Ackroyd and editor Terilyn A. Shropshire make sure that every physical movement is accompanied with palpable impact. The result is intense enough on the whole, and we come to care about Andy and her colleagues more thanks to some brief personal moments amidst actions.

While Charlize Theron, who also participated in the production of the film, is no stranger to action films as already shown from “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) and “Atomic Blonde” (2017), Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, and Luca Marianelli are also believable as action movie characters, and KiKi Layne, who was memorable in “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018), strongly demonstrates another side of her considerable talent. On the opposite, Chiwetel Ejiofor imbues some gravitas to his functional supporting character, and Harry Melling is well-cast in his villainous role, while, to my small amusement, dutifully following a certain villain cliché during the finale.

Overall, “The Old Guard” is entertaining as bringing some fresh air into its genre, and I am glad that Netflix is already planning a sequel, which is already suggested right before the end credits of the movie. Prince-Bythewood and her cast and crew members did a solid job of setting the ground for whatever will come next, and I guess I can have some expectation on that.

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