The Old Guard (2020 film)
|The Old Guard|
Official release poster
|Directed by||Gina Prince-Bythewood|
|Screenplay by||Greg Rucka|
|Based on||The Old Guard|
by Greg Rucka
|Edited by||Terilyn A. Shropshire|
The Old Guard is a 2020 American superhero film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Greg Rucka, based on his comic book of the same name. The film stars Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and follows a team of immortal mercenaries on a revenge mission.
The Old Guard was released on July 10, 2020, on Netflix. It received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the action sequences and Theron's performance.
Andromache "Andy" of Scythia, Booker, Joe, and Nicky are centuries old warriors with regenerative healing abilities who use their vast experience to help people. Former CIA operative Copley hires them to rescue a group of kidnapped children in South Sudan. However, they are ambushed by a squad of highly trained mercenaries. After healing their wounds and killing their attackers, they realize that Copley set them up.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Nile Freeman has her throat slit while taking down a military target, only to recover without a scratch. Soon after, she shares a disturbing dream with the other immortals, who are then alerted to her existence. Andy tracks down and rescues Freeman before military personnel can move her to Germany (implied it's for testing).
Copley shows the video of the ambush to pharmaceutical executive Steven Merrick, who sends operatives to capture the team. Andy brings Nile to France, where Nile meets the rest of their team. She is told about Quynh, the first of Andy's comrades, who was cast into the sea in an iron maiden, and had been continually drowning ever since. The group also reveals that they are not truly immortal: their ability to heal eventually stops, which happened to a previous immortal, Lykon.
The group are ambushed by Merrick's forces; Joe and Nicky are captured while a heavily wounded Booker is left behind. Andy kills their assailants, but discovers that she has lost her immortality as her injuries do not heal. Booker locates Copley, while Nile separates from the group to reunite with her family.
Andy and Booker confront Copley, only for Booker to betray Andy by wounding her, arguing that Merrick might find a way to end their immortality. As they are captured, Booker realizes that Andy is not healing. Copley has a change of heart when he sees that Merrick is willing to torture the immortals indefinitely to study them. Nile, having realized Booker sold out the group, arrives too late to intervene, but she convinces Copley to assist her in a rescue mission.
Copley and Nile storm Merrick's London office. After the rest of the immortals are freed by Nile, they fight their way out through the rest of Merrick's security, ultimately killing Merrick himself.
As punishment for his betrayal, the group forbids Booker from contacting the rest of them for 100 years. The rest of the group meet with Copley, who reveals how their past missions had a greater effect than they ever knew, with the descendants of people they had rescued going on to help the world. With renewed faith in their mission, the group tasks Copley with keeping their existence a secret.
Six months later in Paris, a drunken Booker is astonished to meet Quynh in his apartment.
- Charlize Theron as Andy / Andromache of Scythia
- KiKi Layne as Nile Freeman, a former US Marine who served in Afghanistan
- Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker / Sebastian Le Livre, once a French soldier who fought under Napoleon
- Marwan Kenzari as Joe / Yusuf Al-Kaysani, a Muslim warrior who had participated in the Crusades, as well as Nicky's lover
- Luca Marinelli as Nicky / Nicolo di Genova, a former Italian Crusader. He and Joe started off as enemies, but became lovers after discovering their immortality
- Chiwetel Ejiofor as James Copley, former CIA agent grieving the loss of his wife from ALS
- Harry Melling as Steven Merrick, the wealthy CEO of a pharmaceutical empire
- Van Veronica Ngo as Quynh
- Anamaria Marinca as Dr. Meta Kozak
- Joey Ansah as Keane
In March 2017, Skydance Media picked up the rights to adapt the comic The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez, into a film. Rucka's contract stipulated that a major scene highlighting the romance between the characters Joe and Nicky from the comic book must also be in the film adaptation.
In July 2018, they hired Gina Prince-Bythewood to direct with Rucka adapting his comic book to screenplay and Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger producing. With a budget of about $70 million, Prince-Bythewood became the first black woman to direct a big-budget comic book film. In March 2019, Netflix picked up worldwide rights to the film and agreed to finance it with Skydance. Charlize Theron joined the film and also produced with Beth Kono, A.J. Dix, Marc Evans and Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Don Granger.
KiKi Layne was confirmed to star in the film after Netflix picked up the rights. In May 2019, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Luca Marinelli joined the cast of the film. In June 2019, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, and Veronica Ngo joined the cast of the film. At Ngo's request, details of her character were changed from the comic book. In an interview, Rucka said "When Veronica was cast, she said I’m not Japanese, I’m Vietnamese. [Director Gina Prince-Bythewood] reached out to me and said ‘Can we accommodate that?’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ [...] Noriko becomes Quynh, Quynh is now Vietnamese. It really was as simple as wanting to honor that, and be respectful of that". The other change to the character was the character's death. "In the comic, Quynh/Noriko is washed overboard during a storm rather than deliberately drowned. According to Rucka, that was partially a logistical change to save money. [...] But Quynh’s new 'death,' solidified by Prince-Bythewood’s suggestion of the iron maiden imagery, served an important narrative and tonal role as well".
Principal photography for the film began in Europe in mid-May 2019. Filming took place in Morocco, the United Kingdom and at Shepperton Studios in England. Sandwich in Kent was used as a double for the French town Goussainville. Sandwich's Discovery Park doubled as Merrick Pharmaceutical headquarters throughout the film. Filming in the famous pub The Prospect of Whitby took place on Wednesday, July 10th 2019 .
On July 17, Netflix reported the film was on pace to be viewed by 72 million households over its first four weeks, among the top 10 most-successful original launches in the platform's history.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 81% based on 230 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.5/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "The Old Guard is occasionally restricted by genre conventions, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood brings a sophisticated vision to the superhero genre - and some knockout action sequences led by Charlize Theron." At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a "B+" and said: "Steeped in hand-to-hand action... but with enough ballistic firepower to kit out a small civil war, every action sequence is more than awe-inspiring; they're necessary to the film itself. Superhero battles that are eye popping and narratively motivated? Oh, yeah." Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the film a "watchable franchise wannabe" and wrote: "Chunks of the picture are logy and formulaic (it dawdles on for two hours), but the director, Gina Prince-Bythewood (making a major lane change after Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees), stages the fight scenes with ripe executionary finesse, and she teases out a certain soulful quality in her cast." Bob Chipman of Escapist gave the film 7 out of 10 and said: "This is a clever, slick, progressive minded, yet also brutally violent, frequently kick ass action film" and that "they clearly want it to be a franchise, I'd certainly watch another one."
The film's portrayal of LGBT characters within the superhero genre was praised. Kevin Fallon of The Daily Beast said that The Old Guard "is the first movie with out gay superheroes, or the extremely (extremely) rare action film to feature queer characters and acknowledge their romance... The sexuality of the characters is matter-of-fact and inconsequential to their ability to kick total-and-complete ass, yet also given the dignity of expressing and showing their love". Benjamin Lee, for The Guardian, wrote that "in 2020, it really shouldn't be such a big deal, but watching a form of unfettered queer love exist within the confines of a fantastical comic book adaptation, aimed at a wide audience, felt major to me." Anna Menta of Decider wrote "I hadn't read The Old Guard comic, and I didn't know that writer Greg Rucka had stipulated in his contract that, whenever or however the film got made, it had to include that scene. So when it happened, well, it felt—and still does feel—like a huge freakin' deal... It's just as passionate, just as charged, and just as sensual as Han and Leia, Peter and MJ, Peeta and Katniss, or any other heterosexual couple who's had a big kiss moment in an action movie over the years".
On the coda at the beginning of The Old Guard’s credits, Rucka said "In case of sequel, break glass. It’s very straightforward. You want another one? Here’s a way to get into it". A sequel to the original graphic novel, The Old Guard: Force Multiplied, was published in 2019.
Theron has expressed her interest in a second film, saying: "Let's have a little resting period, but just given the fact that all of us really want to do it, I'm sure when it's the right time, we'll start the conversation."
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