Netflix The Old Guard Movie Review

Highlander meets Call of Duty in Netflix's fun, albeit flawed, action romp.

Based on the 2017 mini-series from Image Comics, The Old Guard sports quite the interesting hook: Andromache of Scythia - "Andy" - and her comrades Joe, Nicky, and Booker are mercenaries who, for reasons even they don't know, can't die. It's a secret they've kept safe through the centuries. But as the years go by, technology has made the world smaller and smaller, and they'll find out the hard way someone would literally kill to have what they have...

Greg Rucka adapted the screenplay from the very same comic book he wrote, and it shows. Taking a page from Zack Snyder's playbook, Netflix's The Old Guard is pretty much a panel-for-panel adaptation. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. In some aspects the movie does things better than the comic. You can see it in the exhilarating, and quite bloody, action set pieces, where the spooky merc quartet operates like a well-oiled machine as they mow down faceless mooks with the grace and precision of a ballet ensemble. You can actually tell they've been doing this dance of death with each other for a millennia.

It's that epic scope of the group's historic lives that I would have loved to see more of. The comic had the space to do it, but in Netflix's The Old Guard all that backstory is only hinted at, hidden under quips about Andy's age or alluded to in badly-Photoshopped pictures of the group during the American Civil War and The French Revolution. There is a lot of existential angst, though, as Andy (Charlize Theron) spends most of the movie tired of living forever and all the baggage it entails, and it's her journey towards rediscovering her purpose that drives the movie's emotional core.

The rest of the cast fare a bit better. Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli are fun to watch as the power couple Joe and Nicky, who met during the actual Crusades. Their relationship is unabashedly warm and tender, and I'm glad they weren't watered down for the hetero-normative crowd. Mattias Schoenaerts oozes roguish charm as Booker, the youngest of the group at around 200 years old. He's not a big fan of the immortality stuff, and it's through him that we see the effects of how time can take so much away from you while you stay still. Kiki Layne as the newbie immortal Nile holds her own against these powerhouses, and plays a seasoned soldier so convincingly on screen. Give her a gun and she's off to the races.

Having adapted much of the comic book for the Netflix screen, I wish Rucka brought the comic's villain as well. Merrick in the comics is a sleazy jock with a mean streak, someone who deserved a bullet between the eyes. But Harry Melling's Merrick lacks an edge to him, and it's not as fun to see pissed-off immortals trying to off Dudley Dursley. Even Harry Potter found something worth saving in him.

Netflix's The Old Guard won't wow any grizzled action movie fan, but fans of the comic book will find lots to love here. With COVID-19 still running rampant, time will tell if it's still worth making a sequel, but if they do, I won't say no to watching more immortals getting riddled with bullets and getting back up to return the favor.

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