‘The Old Guard’ Movie Review: There Should Be Only One

Who wants to live forever? Have we learned nothing from Highlander? Highlander didn’t invent stories of immortality and its mythology is magnificently problematic itself, but with five movies and a TV series it is the current high watermark for immortality stories. The Old Guard is based on a comic book, but it’s only derivative of Highlander without any of the wild additions that make Highlander captivating. 

‘The Old Guard’ is old hat

Andy (Charlize Theron) meets up with Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) in Morocco. They meet with Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) for a mission. In this mission, we see that Andy’s team gets shot by a firing squad, then they stand up and fight. 

The Old Guard
Clockwise from top: Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlize Theron, Luca Marinelli | Aimee Spinks/Netflix

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Meanwhile, U.S. Marine Nile (Kiki Layne) gets killed by an insurgent. She survives too because it turns out she’s one of these immortals. Andy recruits her but Nile is a tough student. She doesn’t want to believe. 

Who wants to live forever when this is the best movie you can be in?

Like Highlander, The Old Guard flashes back to historical times when Andy was Andromyche. It touches on the whole burden of immortality, watching loved ones get old and die. Andy has lived long enough she doesn’t even remember when she first discovered she was immortal. So that’s longer than Highlander.

The Old Guard adds the layer that people want immortality themselves, but these people don’t know why or how they’re immortal. They can’t give the gift of immortality to anyone else, but people think they’re lying so it destroys relationships too. 

L-R: Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne | Aimee Spinks/Netflix

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There may be some interesting themes here, but the plot is all predictable betrayals and twists. There is a lot of exposition monologuing. Andy is looking for someone lost to her hundreds of years ago, and Nile has some sort of psychic connection that can help them find her.

That’s pretty lazy as Maguffins go. At least come up with something where they use their brains or skills to locate Andy’s lost friend, not just “Nile is an immortal GPS.”

‘The Old Guard’ makes 87eleven look bad

87eleven Action Design, the team that created John Wick, and Daniel Hernandez, the fight choreography from Birds of Prey, did the action for The Old Guard. Unfortunately, director Gina Prince-Bythewood and cinematographers Barry Ackroyd and Tami Reiker don’t showcase 87eleven’s work. 

The Old Guard
L-R: KiKi Layne, Luca Marinelli, Charlize Theron, Marwan Kenzari | Netflix

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They film fights too close and shaky. One fight happens in a room wtih a bright spotlight, so it strobes every time they cut. There are way too many cuts. 87eleven does not design for cuts. They design action to play out in front of the camera. 

The one interesting element in these fights are that Andy and Nile can take more hits because they can survive them. So they might not block a sword or dodge a bullet if it’s easier to just power through them. Although they heal, it still hurts, but sometimes you just fight through the pain. Theron and Layne commit. So does all the cast, even those saddled with generic villain “but really I’m doing this for the greater good” roles.

The Old Guard: Charlize Theron and Matthias Schoenaerts
Charlize Theron and Matthias Schoenaerts | Aimee Spinks/Netflix

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Highlander said there can be only one, yet there kept being more. The Old Guard has the audacity to set up a sequel which surely Netflix will do regardless of viewership. This is a cast you want to hold onto. It was a comic book so there were more issues and it is suited to more adventures, but who wants to watch these forever anyway?