The Old Guard drops July 10 on Netflix.
By Chris Flanagan
I wanted The Old Guard to succeed so badly. It had two great trailers that showed exciting fight sequences, great star power in its cast, and focused on a cool premise but while its build-up was exciting, the actual product resulted in an admirable Netflix action movie that could’ve been better.
The Old Guard centers around an immortal group of fighters that have altered the course of history by tipping the scales of power from the shadows. While on assignment, they are exposed and thus on the run from an organization that seeks to capture their DNA and use it for science (and profit). These plans are quickly disrupted as a new immortal is discovered and brought into the group just as they are at their most vulnerable.
The Old Guard’s narrative foundation, while truly interesting, never finds its full pace. Occasionally, it attempts to wrestle with the “why” of it all – why they specifically were chosen, why they live forever, and why they eventually stop. We see these questions being raised through the lens of the newest immortal, Nile, as she begins to realize the full weight of what she has been chosen for and how it will affect the family she will be forced to leave behind. But rarely does it explore these themes beyond the surface level leading to one of the most frustrating setbacks of the film. Outside of these deeper themes, the narrative fails to excite. Big Pharma seeks the key to immortality. A job-gone-wrong leads them right into the lion’s den only for a change of heart to be the deciding factor in the end. It’s a plot that has been made many times, however, despite its predictability, the cast does its best to elevate the generic script and sometimes succeeds, but instead of enhancing the film in those moments, it draws more attention to the fact that there are not enough of them throughout its runtime.
Ultimately, The Old Guard was decent but its lack of character empathy, development, and emotional investment kept too much distance from being able to fully enjoy the entire film. It strives to be more than the sum of its parts but can never break from beyond the tropes that were used to help the story but end up hindering it from being different. The fighting and gunplay scenes were good but not outstanding, especially when compared to another recent Netflix action film, Extraction. Overall, The Old Guard offered decent entertainment that was never memorable but was nowhere near the worst watch of this year. Still, the writer (of both its screenplay and the graphic novel), Greg Rucka, knew how to cleverly end this story just in case Netflix wants to double-down on its investment.
I give The Old Guard a C+.