Review: Netflix’s ‘Old Guard’ with Charlize Theron

Now playing from Netflix and touted under their brand “Originals” is the action flick “Old Guard” starring Charlize Theron.

In an atmosphere where no one is going to movie theaters, Netflix releases what some would say is a film that deserves to be seen in a theater, or does it?


An elite group of warriors, led by Andy (Charlize Theron) have made it their life’s mission to right the wrongs of society. When their secret of immortality is exposed to a high paying medical laboratory, their freedom becomes threatened. A new and skeptical teammate arrives unexpectedly, with lots of questions. 

Based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka, who also wrote the screen play, this film version of his story has stand out action sequences and just enough character development that it surpasses mediocrity. 

The team is made up of four male warriors, and led by Andy (Theron). All of them are vastly skilled in the art of combat but agree that Andy is unmatched in her ability to deliver death blows. The team gets a mutual premonition that another person has their abilities and in comes possible new member Nile (Kiki Lane – “If Beale Street Could Talk”).

Character Development Challenges

With a team  of characters working together as a shared dynamic within a story, it’s challenging for a writer to give each character enough on-screen time to deliver and develop character nuances and motivations that give heed equally to each.

In addition, there is a tough balance that occurs between timing, sequencing of story and character motivations that have to be written in and performed so that you get an overall arc of why and how character’s feel and react. This dynamic is extremely hard to pull off in super hero action films, like an “Avenger’s End Game” that took many films (developed characters) to work on screen.

Trying to build that cohesive blend of character in a two hour film is super difficult, but Rucka made the right choice by focusing just enough on his characters to keep them interesting. He does this by incorporating a few well placed back story sequences.  

Action Sequences

‘Old Guard’ is a highly action driven story which doesn’t leave a lot of room for character development and focuses highly on physical action sequences to move the story forward.

Theron who continues to flourish in recent roles that allow her to demonstrate her physicality including 2017’s “Atomic Blonde,” devastates in this role. The level of skill, whether it’s her 100% or her stunt doubles, doesn’t take away from the sheer volume of physical acting that was required to bring this robust character to screen. I am not going to look up Theron’s age but surely she defies logic not unlike Keanu Reeves who looks much younger and takes on roles usually reserved for an actor in their 30’s or 40’s.

On-Demand vs Theater

“Old Guard” seems to hit all those notes of what you’d expect from a big budget Hollywood released-in-a-theater film, but it just misses that subjective milestone. There is some sort of invisible line right now between what is good enough to be in a theater, and what is “good” for the at home on demand market. Trying to quantify that is like trying to say why a Cadillac is better than a BMW. 

In this case, “Old Guard” is great on TV at home where you can pause it to answer the door for the pizza delivery, refill your alcoholic beverage, etc. Along those lines, if you had dropped the cash for the theater experience you would feel disappointed most likely. 

We are in a place now where we don’t quantify a story or movie just on it’s merits alone but how, when, and where we view it. I find that vastly interesting and wonder if it will continue or revert back to when the theater becomes a valid option again for a film like this?

Incidentally, I had the same exact experience with last month’s Chris Hemsworth – Netflix original “Extraction,” which by the way has a sequel in the works for 2022 release.

What we consider as entertaining at home seems to be less stringent for what we consider in a theater. Is that a good thing and where the entertainment industry is headed? Consider commenting on that in the FB Bounding Fans Page.

The Verdict

Old Guard has good characters, solid acting, and phenomenal action sequences, but the actual story itself while it does have all the right components, just seems to be missing a few worthwhile and nuanced elements that hold it back from being really good.

Those elements could have been achieved with another 12 minutes of character development perhaps, or a different crisis the team needs to over come. 

That elusive line between what is good enough to earn a viewer’s praise for an at-home entertainment experience versus in the theater warrants grading this film based upon that. As it stands, for at home entertainment, it’s good enough because Theron holds the film together with her sheer charisma on screen despite a lackluster overall story.

There’s a thought that developing sequels based upon the character’s past would be more interesting than what seems more likely planned based upon how the film ended with the character “Nile” being poised to continue.

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