Netflix has added yet another movie genre to its Godzilla-sized catalog: superheroes.
Every time the streaming behemoth nails a new film, you greet it with equal parts elation and terror: “I can watch this from my couch! Wait … Am I supporting the Walmart of movies that’s gobbling up vulnerable studios and distributors?!?”
Probably. But with “The Old Guard,” there is no moral quandary, because it’s a comic book film, and you won’t find me shedding any tears for Disney ever. Spider-Man is gonna be fine.
Unlike the Avengers, you likely haven’t heard of this unusual crew of super soldiers. Netflix has made a smart move by grabbing hold of a story few people know, Image Comics’ “The Old Guard” by Greg Rucka. Smart move No. 2 was getting Oscar winner Charlize Theron to star in it as an immortal, impossibly old, ass-kicking warrior called Andromache of Scythia. The actress has swapped “Mad Max” for a rad ax.
Andromache, called “Andy,” leads a band of five undying warriors, cursed for unexplained reasons to survive any injury and live unnaturally long lives. These mutants have chosen to use their powers to fight the world’s evils, which never seem to end.
It’s a little hard to picture Theron having her heyday 6,000 years ago in Central Asia, but hey, if Lucy Lawless could pass as an ancient Grecian princess with lustrous hair out of a L’Oréal commercial, all’s fair, I say. Theron is terrific.
When a US soldier named Nile (an instantly likable KiKi Layne) has her throat cut by a terrorist in Afghanistan, she wakes up to find that her wound has miraculously healed. She too is an immortal. Andy and Co. seek her out and Nile joins the band of crime-fighting misfits.
The main baddie is an Elizabeth Holmes-esque medical innovator, Merrick (Harry Melling), who wants to capture and experiment on the team to produce fountain-of-youth drugs to pad his coffers.
The best part of “The Old Guard” isn’t the plot, however, but the combat. Two of its members, Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), fought against each other during the Crusades and another, Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) oui-oui’d alongside Napoleon. Together, these AARP members contain millennia of battle strategy and fighting technique, which the movie has cleverly modernized.
Cool though the skirmishes are, director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film could use some more visual panache, given the unique historical backgrounds of her characters. The look, by and large, is rudimentary action flick.
Still, it’s good fun and has more than a few winning one-liners.
“You praying?”, Andy asks a nervous Nile. “You know, there was a time I was worshipped as a god.”
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