‘The Old Guard’ Is A Smart Blend Of Action And Emotion


There’s a moment in the wonderful 2000 romance Love And Basketball when Monica and Quincy, college sweethearts who are both athletes, sit on a dorm-room bed together, recovering from their bruises. Their bodies are tangled and facing in opposite directions, with her hand holding ice on his belly and his holding ice on her ankle. The camera looks at the little drops of water on his skin and on hers, and we hear the crinkle of her bag of ice as she gently wiggles it back and forth. It’s an extraordinary moment of intimacy, both because of the way it communicates the foundations of the relationship — its nurture and trust — and because of the way it displays the inherent vulnerability of bodies and what a critical part of humanity they represent.

Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed that scene, and in the last 20 years she’s directed television like Shots Fired and other films like Beyond The Lights. But this was the scene I kept coming back to while watching the very good Netflix action thriller The Old Guard, starring Charlize Theron, which Prince-Bythewood directed from a script by Greg Rucka, adapting the comics he created with artist Leandro Fernandez.

It might not be obvious, the connection between young lovers sprawled on a bed and a team of fighters against injustice. And particularly in this case, injured athletes aren’t an obvious analogue because — and this is where I acknowledge that I am going to spoil the premise of the comics and the film — these are people who have lived many lifetimes, who cannot die. Or, rather, they die and they come back. Not just once, but over and over. For centuries; for longer.

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