Theron plays a mercenary who can't be killed in comic-based Netflix title

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In "The Old Guard," Charlize Theron leads a gang of centuries-old immortal mercenaries through a series of secret missions. For someone who is around 1,000 years old — she's been kicking a-- since the Crusades — she looks mighty good for her age, and can still fight like John Wick if John Wick had the advantage of not being able to be killed. 

Based on the comic book of the same name, "The Old Guard" is a stellar action romp that takes itself seriously but not too seriously, finding the right balance in tone to bring viewers comfortably inside its bonkers world. There's no camp in its execution, which is why you believe in its story, and in this gang of roving warriors who've been traveling the globe for hundreds of years, fighting injustices as they see fit. 

Theron is Andy, short for Andromache of Scythia (I'd probably go by Andy, too), who is extra careful to protect her anonymity even in today's world of cellphones and surveillance cameras. She carries herself like a cross between Theron's characters in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Atomic Blonde," with a haircut — short, brown and swept to the side — that falls squarely in between the two no-nonsense fighters. 

Andy calls the shots for her troupe, a gang of mystical soldiers who clean up messes to help preserve the right side of history. Are they good guys? Bad guys? "Depends on the century," says Joe (Marwan Kenzari), explaining how the group's allegiances and perceptions evolve with the times. 

Andy and Joe are joined by Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), who round out the foursome. The group makes a psychic connection with Nile ("If Beale Street Could Talk's" KiKi Layne), a Marine who's killed in action and mysteriously springs back to life. Turns out she's an immortal as well, and Andy sets out to track her down, explain to her the particulars of why she had her throat slashed and lived to tell the tale, and recruit her to the squad.

Despite their efforts to stay in the shadows, Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is on to the group's whereabouts, and aims to bring them to Merrick (Harry Melling), a sniveling pharma bro in a Zuckerberg-style sportcoat-hoodie combo who wants to mine them for science — and get rich off the results, of course. Fights ensue.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood ("Beyond the Lights") stages several rock 'em, sock 'em action scenes, including one on board a cargo plane that packs a little extra punch. Writer Greg Rucka does a solid job of establishing his characters and the world in which they live, as well as the moral and ethical implications of their actions. He takes the fantastical and makes it, well, if not believable, at least conceivable within the framework of the film. 

"The Old Guard" sets itself up as a potential franchise, and successfully builds a world that's worth revisiting. It's a fun ride, no matter your age.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'The Old Guard'

GRADE: B

Rated R: for sequences of graphic violence, and language

Running time: 124 minutes

On Netflix

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