Old Guard, The: Gay Action Movie? Action Movie with Gay Couple?

Netflix’s blockbuster action adventure is quite a conventional superhero movie in many ways, employing many of the same narrative decisions that audiences have come to expect. But there are some significant exceptions.

a man standing in front of a stove: Netflix movie 'The Old Guard' subverts action genre expectations with inclusion and representation, centering a Black woman and gay couple's love story.© Netflix Netflix movie ‘The Old Guard’ subverts action genre expectations with inclusion and representation, centering a Black woman and gay couple’s love story.

(Warning: plot spoilers)

What sets The Old Guard apart from its counterparts is that the movie’s central team of immortal warriors, is led by a woman named Andy (Charlize Theron), and, more importantly, that there is a gay couple at the center.

When Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) are first introduced, their relationship to each other isn’t evident. It takes a whole reel before they reveal to newcomer Nile (KiKi Layne) that they have been inseparably in love for years.

In the case of The Old Guard, the diversity of its characters is far from incidental; it actually elevates an otherwise familiar premise.

Joe and Nicky’s love story becomes an increasingly prominent part of the film’s plot, and much of the online excitement around The Old Guard has centered on a scene in which Joe gives a speech about just how much Nicky means to him.

When Joe speaks of his millenia-long love for Nicky, it lends weight to the scene because the viewer can only begin to imagine how much bigotry a gay couple would have experienced through the centuries. When the van door opens and we see that Joe and Nicky have slaughtered their homophobic captors, it’s a moment that the movie plays for laughs—but their relationship is never the joke.

netflix the old guard joe nicky kiss© Netflix netflix the old guard joe nicky kiss

The casting of KiKi Layne as Nile, the newly initiated immortal, also subverts narrative expectation. This heroic archetype is usually portrayed as a young white man. It brings new dimension to the movie’s climactic final act; the image of a Black woman taking on a horde of identical white men in gear, whose hail of bullets cannot stop her.

This is a mainstream movie that includes non-white, non-cishet characters and storylines, a new kind of representation, which goes well with the source material.

It finds newer, creative ways to engage a younger, wider, more diverse and inclusive audience.