Andy is the eldest member of an elite band of people who appear to be immortal. The opening scene features a flash-forward to their bullet-ridden bodies; a little later, we see them rising up fully healed after this slaughter, spitting out the bullets that have penetrated their faces as they mow down their opponents. This squad of four is about to be joined by a fifth member, Nile (KiKi Layne), a Marine stationed in Afghanistan whose slit throat suddenly heals itself. She is also plagued by nightmarish visions of other team members, a psychic link that, according to Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), only shuts down once they have all met. Until Nile showed up, Booker was the Guard’s youngest member, joining in 1812.
Since “Mad Max: Fury Road” cemented Theron’s ability to weld her Oscar-winning acting skills onto the bodies of fierce warriors who kick ass, “The Old Guard” treats us to a great, plane-bound fight between Nile and Andy. The two showcase their battle credentials while Andy offers gruesome examples of Nile’s ability to heal. With Nile’s braided, natural hairdo and Andy’s Karen-style coif, their battle plays like an unintentional and vengeful commentary on those angry “can I speak to a manager” videos plaguing social media. What does feel intentional, however, is the inclusivity inherent in the depiction of the immortals, both in flashbacks and in its current timeline. They are played by a variety of different races and it never once feels forced or pandering.
In addition to observing the humanity of its heroes, “The Old Guard” also employs Prince-Bythewood’s penchant for grandiose, melodramatic gestures that shouldn’t work at all yet play out masterfully. Think about Noni on that balcony in “Beyond the Lights,” or Monica setting the terms of the climactic game in “Love and Basketball.” Here, the moment occurs between Andy’s teammates Nicolo (Luca Marinelli) and Joe (Marwan Kenzari). By virtue of their shared immortality, these men have been together for hundreds of years. They are lovers whose “Meet Cute” occurred when they were constantly killing each other during the Crusades. After they’ve been captured by minions of our villain, the evil pharmaceutical dudebro, Merrick (Harry Melling), Joe’s concern for his fallen comrade is mocked with homophobic intent. “Is he your boyfriend?” his captor asks. Joe’s response with a declaration of love as shamelessly florid as it is heartfelt, putting that paltry moment of LGBTQ representation in “Avengers: Endgame” to shame.