Committed to her work with her country’s African-American community, director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, Behind the Lights…) seems to be out of her territory and, in fact, has recently directed The Old Guard (2020).
Distributed by Netflix, the film, in its early day, looks like a cop and suddenly reveals itself to us as what it really is: a superhero adventure. Greg Rucka’s script is based on the comic of the same name (The Old Guard), whose authors are Rucka and illustrator Leandro Fernández. Among others, it stars Charlize Theron, Kiki Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Marwan Kenzari.
From the beginning of the plot, we are being left with clues so that, in fact, the viewer knows that these are not mere mercenaries, but supporters of good causes, carried out in any country. Hence, at the beginning of the feature film Andy (Charlize Theron), the leader of the group, he observes fragments of the world situation through a screen installed on one of the streets of Morocco. Now, beyond being hired, what does a transnational band like this do, when we learn that they have been carrying on their souls the weight of so many centuries? “The world is not getting better, it’s getting worse,” Andy says after an unforeseen event.
The narration of The Old Guard is encouraged when, in addition to revealing to us other members who have been left on the road, an African-American girl appears who, being of the American army, resurfaces with the same characteristics of the old but effective progeny. Here being “old” is to drag a sober beauty, not radiant like Dorian Gray, but sober beauty of the warrior, after all, as well as being the guarantee of accumulating different ways of fighting that are the main dish of this story. In this sense, we do not expect a stetick from the violence to the Matrix (Brothers Wachowski, 1999) and its aftermath of 2003, although we will attend choreographed scenes better achieved than those of the much-failed The Extraordinary League (Stephen Norrington, 2003).
The new girl, Nile Freeman (Kiki Layne), must be recruited and tried to teach her that “living by living” is not for people of her condition. But who gave them the mission to do what they do? They learned that from behind. It has been up to them to decide who lives and who dies in a world of privileged and miserable. When it’s your time to talk to the host of a certain program, you’ll link these “saviors” to hollywood’s malice and hypocrisy and dominant politics. This is a reality, but there is much more from a cinematic point of view, although in the approaches there may be less than we expect. However, it is revealing the situations of the members of this special team: Andy has lost someone during his long life journey, Nicky (Luca Marinelli) and Joe (Marwan Kenzari) represent opponent cultures that have been better understood than the viewer believes, Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a loner still trying to match Andy? This is unclear, but it is also not significant. Thanks to its contrasts, it is a group of weapons to take.
Questions about immortality or transcendence, par vida/death, the disposition of professional ethics before the difference of the other intersect in an unmeasured destination but with an expiration date. I won’t reveal why I’m saying it. It’s just signs, flashes, little things… because, as a superhero movie, it’s rested. To be Prince-Bythewood’s first foray into the genre, it is interesting, with intense moments – its soundtrack is appealing – focused, above all, on Charlize Theron’s martial art, as well as on his character’s passionate and tender gaze to humanity.
In the final minutes, someone shows up that we didn’t expect. That being and the scene announce it: there will be a continuation of The Old Guard. Let’s hope it’s better for this boot. Ω