Netflix’s “The Old Guard” — a new franchise for director Gina Prince-Bythewood in the superhero world?

by Lapacazo Sandoval, LA Sentinel Contributing Writer
Is Netflix’s “The Old Guard” a new franchise for director Gina Prince-Bythewood? I sincerely hope that is the case because an African-American director deserves the opportunity to put her spin on the tried superhero genre.
“The Old Guard” springs from the pages of Greg Rucka’s graphic novel series, and although there is nothing new about the eternal fight between good and evil — here, at least it makes sense that evil is represented as a tech-bro big pharma C.E.O. and his heavily armed evil army.

Gina Prince-Bythewood AP Photo

The warriors — led by the “I don’t give a flying f*c$ Andy (Charlize Theron) — is an immortal which means that she, along with her team, can’t die. That’s their collective superpower — not staying dead, dead but they do go down like bowling pins in pools of blood and bone-shattering bullet wounds. Then they jump up — wounds healing — to destroy their surprised attackers.

Andy has been “immortal aka dead” the longest — since antiquity when her name was Andromache. The other immortal good-guys include Nicky (Luca Marinelli) and Joe (Marwan Kenzari) eternal lovers who met on opposite sides of the Crusades, and Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), who was killed during the Napoleonic Wars.

Here “The Old Guard” focuses on the initiation of the newest member of their immortal team, a young United States Marine named Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne).

Nile does not enjoy nor does she understand her immortality. It’s heartbreaking to have power over life and death but still be vulnerable.

Nile isn’t the only one feeling the melancholy. Andy is having doubts feeling the fight draining out of her because the world isn’t any better, and it’s getting harder to tell who is good and who is bad.

This image released by Netflix shows actress Kiki Layne, left, with director Gina Prince-Bythewood during the filming of “The Old Guard.” The action film, also starring Charlize Theron, premieres this week on Netflix. (Aimee Spinks/Netflix via AP)

“The Old Guard” is an action movie so there is a lot of guns going off, punches being thrown, axes being swung and things blowing up.

Prince-Bythewood understands how to keep the action fast all the while, still keeping her finger on what makes people curious.

The answer here is the mentor-protégé relationship between Andy and Nile. Andy is experienced and weary, barely able to hold on to her purpose.

Nile is confused being thrown into a cause she didn’t choose flipping between her solider’s confidence and then panic.

Enter the bad guy — ex-C.I.A. Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is working for the aforementioned evil pharma boss, Merrick (Harry Melling). His goal is to harvest the immortal’s DNA to make new medicines.

The casting is pitch-perfect. One standout is Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”). The screenplay is written by Greg Rucka opens the story for sequels and the fact the story deals with immortals opens the creative team to all kinds of developments. Here’s hoping that Gina Prince-Bythewood stays for the long haul.

“The Old Guard” directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Screenplay by Greg Rucka. Starring Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli. Now playing on Netflix.

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