(director: Gina Prince-Bythewood; screenwriter: Greg Rucka; cinematographers: Tami Reiker/Barry Ackroyd; editor: Terilyn A. Shropshire; music: Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran; cast:  Charlize Theron (Andromache of Scythia, Andy), Kiki Layne (Nile Freeman), Marwan Kenzari (Joe, Yusuf Al-Kaysani),  Harry Melling (Merrick), Luca Marinelli (Nicky), Matthias Schoenaerts (Booker), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Copley), Van Veronica (Ngo), Anamaria Marinca (), Joey Ansah (); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: R; producers: David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Charlize Theron, A.J. Dix, Beth Kono, Marc Evans; Netflix; 2020)

“Comic book superhero film with enough killings to satisfy even the most savage of male viewers.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love and Basketball”/”Beyond the Lights”), the rare woman of color who directs, mounts this action pic with oodles of verve. It’s a mainstream comic book superhero film with enough killings to satisfy even the most savage of male viewers. It’s adapted to the screen from a series of graphic novels by DC Comics writer Greg Rucka (illustrations are by Leandro Fernandez). For a typical action pic, the characters are surprisingly well-scoped out. While the combat scenes are convincing, even if not interesting. The story however is pure hokum, and not worth much attention.

Andromache of Scythia, who goes by the name Andy (Charlize Theron), probably dates back to ancient Greek times. She’s a badass who wields a double-headed medieval ax, as she leads a loyal band of mercenary warriors who regenerate every time they die. Her army includes gay lovers Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). They met on the cute during the Crusades, where they fought on opposite sides. While Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) is the logistics guy, who was first killed in the Napoleonic Wars.

When the richly rewarded mercenaries, who almost always side with the oppressed (though sometimes will work for the bad guys, um!), are asked if they’re good guys or bad: one of them curiously replies, “Depends on the century.”

When U.S. Marine Nile Freeman (Kiki Layne) gets her throat slashed in Afghanistan and swiftly recovers, she becomes the first new recruited immortal warrior in centuries. Her recruitment comes with a backstory connecting her in the past with Andy and a fight occurs between the two after Nile goes after the guilt-stricken Andy for not protecting her companion Quynh (Van Veronica Ngo).

Andy has become battle fatigued and disappointed her efforts haven’t stopped the increasing violence in the world. She’s reluctant but ready for another mission when her immortal warriors are recruited by the shadowy former CIA agent Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor). But the mission faces an ambush of the warriors at a safe house outside Paris, as two members are taken by a paramilitary squad working for the oily Merrick (Harry Melling). He’s the CEO of the Melling pharmaceutical company and is the film’s chief villain, and an acquaintance of Copley.

The flashbacks to the immortals fighting in the old days are absurd, as is the film’s length of 125 minutes of mostly bloody combat. But I can relent on my usual negative opinion for such a vacuous action pic and give this one a passing grade for its competent filmmaking and the fine fiery performances of both Theron and Layne.

From left, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlize
      Theron, Luca Marinelli and KiKi Layne in “The Old Guard.”