Review by Dan Skip Allen
Image Comics is known as the company the "big five" — Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Mark Sylvestri, and Eric Larson — formed back when they all left Marvel back in the '90s. They all started their own brands within Image but the company has transcended that initial launch. They have expanded in fun, interesting and groundbreaking ways. Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead was the first breakout hit from the new Image, turning into a hugely successful show on AMC that is still on the air after 10 seasons and spawned a second show. The Old Guard is another live-action adaptation of an Image comic from creators Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez.
The Old Guard is an elite group of mercenaries who are immortal. Andy (Charlize Theron), Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Nicky (Luca Marinelli), and Joe (Marwan Kenzawi) work for whoever can afford their services. One century they can be bad and another they can be good. After being set up by an employer, Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) they get word of a new immortal. Nile Freeman (Kiki Layne) is a marine that discovers her new ability to not die the hard way.
On the run from Merrick (Harry Melling, best known for his role as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter franchise), The Old Guard tries to do what they do best, to survive. He wants these gifted individuals for himself. And will stop at nothing to get them. Andy has to help her group survive and stop Merrick from his maniacal scheme. As comic book adaptations go, The Old Guard is quite different than anything I've seen before. As far as movies and TV shows go, it's just a different take on the Highlander movies.
Gina Prince-Bythewood is a writer/director of some renown. She had directed a few movies before this one, Love & Basketball among them. Her movies have a depth of character and emotion to them. The Old Guard tries to add the same kind of depth to it. It creates a backstory for the main characters of Andy and Nile. This way the viewer will care about these characters. Although I applaud her for the good try, I wasn't really invested in these characters or their backstories to care that much about them. Even though the concept of the movie was intriguing to me. I just wasn't drawn in enough to be that taken by it.
The Old Guard is an old concept with a relatively new twist on it. It has a good cast that makes the movie more interesting to watch, but in the end, they are wasted. Gina Prince-Bythewood is hamstrung by the source material. The source material had a bunch of comics to tell this story not a two-hour movie. I'm sure these actors were fascinated by that source material and the prospect of working with Prince-Bythewood. In the end, they were let down and so was I. The film had a lot of bloody scenes and some action. I wish there were a lot more of both in the film. That might have made it more entertaining all the way around. Melling was just a mustache-twirling villain I've seen a thousand times before. This film is all over the place! In better hands, it may be more focused and cohesive.
The Old Guard is now streaming on Netflix.