Everything you want from Netflix movie
The world is not in want of an action movie, but it is in want of great action movies. The Old Guard is one of those rare creatures, often whispered about, but rarely seen.
Starring Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthias Schoenaerts, The Old Guard is a movie that combines exhilarating action set pieces with emotional character beats - something you can invest in and care about, not just a series of booms, bangs and gunfire.
Theron stars as Andy, the leader of a group of immortal warriors who have spent centuries - in Andy's case, millennia - fighting the good fight but feeling they're making little difference in world that is only more fractured and pessimistic.
Lethal with an axe, she and her compatriots Booker (Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) cannot die - well, they can die, but they don't know when the last bullet through the heart will be their last which gives them more meaning and purpose than you'd expect for immortals.
After a year apart, the four reunite only for two things to happen. The first is they become the prey for a snivelly pharmaceutical boss, Merrick (Harry Melling), who must be modelled on old mate Martin Shkreli, looking to unlock the secret of their eternal DNA.
And the second is they can sense a new member in their ranks, the first in 200 years, whose human death has "awakened" her immortal self. That newbie is Niles Freedman (KiKi Layne), a US army soldier stationed in the Middle East.
How The Old Guard, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and adapted from comic books by Greg Rucka, excels where so many fail is through the balance of action with the demands of the rest of the story. If there's a shoot 'em up, it serves a story purpose, and furthers the character arcs.
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Too many action movies think they can skate by with endless set pieces that do little other than to show off the skills of its stuntspeople, and how fast an editor can cut between shots so you never need to know that it's not really the named actors running at that fence.
That tendency to be overly propulsive - and overusing wires, CGI - means so many action movies are laughably uninteresting. You can't follow a series of blurs.
In The Old Guard, the action sequences are grounded, relying on well-choreographed, gritty, close-quarter hand-to-hand combat in wide shots that tell a coherent and cohesive story of a fight, even when there are multiple players in the tableau.
Theron has form after the likes of Atomic Blonde and Mad Max: Fury Road, so you can see that it's actually her throwing and taking the punches, which makes it that much more engaging for an audience.
The pharmaceutical boss subplot isn't particularly interesting, but it serves as a device in which The Old Guard creates jeopardy for Andy and her crew, leading to them asking more questions about their purpose, their contributions and their unit.
It's that relatable character work in a movie that's so high-concept which fuels The Old Guard.
That and the performances - none of the actors play their characters as if they're in a high-concept movie, they just play them as they're your neighbours who just happen to be immortal and deadly in combat.
The Old Guard is a great film, not just as a Charlize Theron vehicle, but one that gives you exactly what you want from an action movie.
The Old Guard is on Netflix from Friday, July 10 at 5pm AEST
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Originally published as Everything you want from Netflix movie