Sony // 2011 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // January 2nd, 2012
"I'm Irish. Racism is part of my culture."
Two law enforcement officials: One black, one white. They're partnered-up against their will, don't get along, and trade insults. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Yes, it does, but The Guard gives it a good going over.
In a quite and small rural Irish town lives Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson, Green Zone). He's unorthodox to say the least, dropping some acid he finds on a casualty at a drunken driving accident. New to town is the highly regimented FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle, Traffic), coming all the way from America. Together they're heading-up an investigation to stop a $500-million (or half a billion dollars, if you prefer) drug shipment.
The Guard, in brief, is Lethal Weapon meets Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) with some shades of Det. McNulty from The Wire. However, it's not derivative, or a poorly made mash-up. Instead, it's a funny, satisfying, and tongue-in-cheek piece of work.
The film's opening scene kicks the film immediately into gear when Boyle watches a bunch of wasted teenagers zoom past him. He doesn't react immediately. It's not because he's doesn't care, or isn't paying attention. He doesn't react because it isn't required. A few seconds later the punks' car is overturned and they're finished. Boyle coolly goes over, pulls some drugs off one of dead youths, shifts through the contents, and tosses them away. Well, he throws almost all of it aside. He keeps an acid tab, which he immediately takes at the accident scene. The scene captures Boyle's persona completely: he's a veteran cop who knows exactly how situations will play-out, but he also makes some extremely bizarre choices (both on and off the job).
Boyle is a great character and is the biggest reason to watch this film. He is hilarious. He ceaselessly tries to provoke Agent Wendell with racially charged comments and anti-FBI taunts. Also, he mercilessly mocks television cop show lingo and plot devices. And when he's not doing any of those things he's drinking (on and off the job), tending to his ill mother, consoling a widow and gallivanting around with hookers. As a result, Boyle is not simply a clown or wise-cracking crank, but a fully realized character brought to life by Gleeson's excellent performance and a script by John Michael McDonagh (who directed, too).
Unfortunately, not enough care was put into the rest of the film, making Gleeson the only reason (a compelling one, though) to watch The Guard. The FBI investigation, the drug deal, the drug dealers, and other characters are all secondary (distantly), providing the barest of structures to direct the film. Little use is made of these non-Boyle features. For example, there are a couple of Tarantino-esque scenes with the main drug dealers (Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and David Wilmot) discussing philosophy. However, except for the finale, they're never presented doing much in the way of carrying out their business of being drug smugglers. These scenes are of little to no importance for moving the film forward; they just keep Gleeson off-screen and help push the running time into that required for a feature length film.
The same goes for the rest of the performances, including Cheadle. There's not much of interest for them do, or say. All the best lines go to Gleeson. He steals every scene he's in.
The audio and video transfers what you would expect for an independent film with a $6 million budget: functional, but not fancy. The picture quality is solid on both color and detail. The coast of Ireland looks beautiful. The audio delivery is similarly well done, yet simple, as there is little for it to do except deliver the dialogue and minor sound effects. Viewers may wish to make use of the subtitle features because some of the Irish accents are difficult to decipher at times.
The package of extras are the same as those featured on the Blu-ray release: a commentary track with McDonagh, Gleeson and Cheadle, a "Making of" featurette, a film festival Q&A session with Gleeson, Cheadle and McDonagh, a short film by McDonagh called "The Second Death," deleted/extended/alternate scenes, outtakes and a trailer.
The Guard, or more specifically, the character of Sergeant Gerry Boyle played by Gleeson, could easily be adapted into an HBO series. With good writers, it would be must see television and perhaps better than the source material. However, the film is the only thing out there at present. Like Boyle, it's not perfect, but it's highly entertaining.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Extended/Deleted Scenes
* Short Film
* Official Site