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Why action movie fans will love The Old Guard - Exclusive

The Old Guard is a hit with critics and comic book movie lovers alike, but the Netflix original film is a special treat for action movie fans in particular — thanks to its close-quarters fighting, eye-level handheld camerawork, and rich environments filled with improvised weapons and stunts.

In The Old Guard, Charlize Theron, who has performed many of her own stunts in movies like Atomic Blonde and Aeon Flux, leads a team of immortals as the millennia-old Andromache of Scythia ("Andy" for short). The flick features hand-to-hand combat in a number of styles, plus a lot of gunfire, guns used as blunt force instruments, swords, and a signature axe.

As a dedicated action movie aficionado himself, The Old Guard's fight coordinator Daniel Hernandez has the experience and the chops to lend credibility to his full-throated endorsement of director Gina Prince-Bythewood's comic book adaptation. In an exclusive interview with Looper, the stunt veteran explained why action movie fans will love The Old Guard.

Immortal fighters meant multiple fighting styles

The Old Guard's Andy leads a diverse assemblage of fellow immortals as they attempt to right humanity's wrongs with lethal force — whether they're rescuing children from terrorists, or fighting on the right side of history on the battlefield. She's been around long enough to have once been worshipped as a god. Her fellow crew members Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) met on opposing sides during the Crusades. Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts) served as a soldier under Napoleon. Newcomer Nile (KiKi Layne), who discovers her own immortality and joins the crew, is a battle-hardened U.S. Marine.

Given the various points of origin for each fighter, Hernandez and his team called upon a wide range of different fighting styles while prepping for The Old Guard. Those included HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), Arnis (aka Eskrima/Escrima, from the Philippines), and Krav Maga, which itself incorporates Aikido, boxing, wrestling, and Judo, among other styles. Then there's the variety of old school weapons in play, from swords to Andy's killer signature axe.

"It was, for me, the first time to actually incorporate the old medieval weaponry [alongside] modern-day weaponry, like guns," Hernandez told Looper. He added that part of the excitement of the challenge with blending in the old stuff was "how you actually have to close the distance [between fighters] to be able to use their archaic weaponry."

Guns as blunt-force instruments in The Old Guard

The characters in The Old Guard use their guns for more than just shooting at bad guys. In many of the movie's coolest scenes, pistols and rifles become clubs and battering rams thrown against faces and torsos. This was particularly useful in one early scene, "the kill room," in which The Old Guard is tested against a group of lethal mercenaries in a darkened room. 

"Those guns are heavy," Hernandez pointed out. "They can do definitely significant damage to the opponent. It's easier, especially with multiple opponents in close quarters, to hit somebody than to shoot somebody."

During the movie's massive pharmaceutical building battle, Andy notices one of those in-case-of-emergency fire axes on a wall, smashes the glass, and starts chopping down enemies. It's one of a handful of similar moments where The Old Guard warriors make use of their surroundings.

"That one came within the script," Hernandez explained. "I'm a fan of that, too, using the environment. I'm a Jackie Chan fan, of course, and he's a master of using the environment."

The biggest selling points for action fans

As a stuntman, utility stunts performer, and fight coordinator, Hernandez has worked on The Avengers, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Ragnarok, Birds of Prey, The Fate of the Furious; John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2. The Expendables and The Expendables 2 – among other movie credits. He also worked closely with Florian "Big Nasty" Munteanu in Creed II. And he's very fond of Theron and John Wick star Keanu Reeves, who embrace the martial arts lifestyle.

That's especially on display in The Old Guard, which Hernandez shared truly encompasses a number of different martial arts styles. Plus, the flick incorporates a ton of interesting weaponry. Those elements are, to Hernandez, what action movie fans and martial arts enthusiasts will love most about The Old Guard.

"For the martial arts junkies out there, The Old Guard is a very eye-pleasing thing to see — to see all of the different martial arts all come together [and] collaborate as one," he told Looper. "John Wick fans will see a piece of that. But also, with people who are fans of weaponry like swords and axes, I think it has [a lot to offer]. And to see female actors perform and kick ass, an Oscar-winning actress doing incredible action — people who see it believe they're doing it because they are doing it."

The Old Guard is now streaming on Netflix.