Sergeant Garry Boyle isn’t your typical cop, he drinks on the job, does drugs, tampers with evidence (that is if he sticks around the crime scene long enough), solicits prostitutes and has a clear lack of respect for his fellow officers. These facts completely blow away FBI agent Wendell Everett when he’s forced to team up with Boyle in hopes of taking down an international drug smuggling trio, a feat that seems less and less likely by the minute.
Every year I get at least one film festival flick that not only doesn’t completely suck, but actually isn’t half bad. Last year’s WINTER’S BONE was phenomenal and though THE GUARD isn’t nearly on that level, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. That said, you’ll know instantly within the opening moments if this is the film for you when a drunken car crash introduces our main character. Personally, I laughed pretty hard when this rough around the edges cop/guard (what have you) nonchalantly disregards the accident and deaths of a few drunk driving teens and instead rummages through one dude’s pocket where he finds and drops a hit of acid. Priceless. Just like this season of THE WALKING DEAD, where Rick shoots a kid clean in the face, this scene really made me appreciate just how far film and TV have come and what they’re able to get away with these days.
Director John Michael McDonagh’s directorial debut isn’t perfect, but one thing he got spot on was the grim, but often times comical mood. This film immediately reminded me of IN BRUGES (no surprise, considering lead actor Brendan Gleeson starred in it as well and of course the fact that McDonagh’s brother directed the film), which like this film mixes a lot of dark humor into some even darker material, all the while, not really crossing the line or forgetting what sort of film it’s trying to be. The storyline has been done to death for sure, big city cop teaming up with a low level country cop to take down a bunch of drug dealers, the many variations of this out there in circulation is staggering, so they really needed to lean heavily upon the actors. For the most part it worked, Gleeson is funny and his sarcastic rebuttals are as well timed as they are played. I’m not a huge fan of Don Cheadle (I think I’m still not over the IRON MAN 2 debacle) but I have to admit their chemistry was pretty convincing. For my money though, Mark Strong’s over the top drug dealer delivered some of the funniest lines despite being underused.
THE GUARD serves up an alright dose of entertainment for one sitting, but I can’t see myself watching it twice. The pace was a little off, jumping back and forth with Gleeson’s dying mother (played by LOST’s Fionnula Flanagan) which was depressing, and then boggled down with ridiculous filler side stories like Gleeson’s hooker threesome and his missing new partner whose only in the film for ten minutes. I get that Gleeson’s character is borderline insane and that these little tidbits are there for extra comic relief, but some of it felt forced, out of place or simply useless. All in all the cast delivers, there are some sinister laughs to be had and the story isn’t terrible, not bad for a first effort film. The real question is are you as sick as I am when it comes to humor, because like I said, that’s the question you’ll be faced with almost immediately.
Video: 2.35:1 Widescreen in 1080p HD with AVC codec. The locales looked grim and dreary, but that’s exactly how they’re meant to look so I was happy.
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD in English with the same subtitle options. The opening tune by N.E.R.D is still a goodie.
Commentary (1:35:49): Director John Michael McDonagh and actors Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle kick back narrate the ride as good sports and with a fair amount of extra humour. You can instantly tell the two lead actors enjoyed working together and had as much fun with their characters as possible which I find very cool.
The Second Death (11:32): This short film is also cool and again has that IN BRUGES vibe to it. I say this because I enjoyed IN BRUGES and feel it’s a good thing. If you also liked that flick, you’ll no doubt feel the same.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (24:54): Not much here to write home to mom about, a few more bits with Boyle’s mom as well as a couple good funny one liners but it’s easy to see how and why they trimmed the fat.
Outtakes (3:05): These are always hit and miss, sometimes being such a miss that you wonder why they were even included. Luckily this one isn’t like that, it’s brief but entertaining.
Making of The Guard (19:21): Standard stuff really, a lot of on-site stuff which worked very well for the film and gave it that authentic feel. They had a lot of fun with the English vs. Irish accents and didn’t dummy it down as much as you’d think. I’ve never really had a hard time understanding accents and slang anyway.
Q&A with Director and two leads (18:09): McDonagh, Gleeson and Cheadle take questions and discuss the scene in the bar with Boyle and his mother. In light of this being a scene that could give some things away I won’t go into detail, but I will say that this scene is a little vague and presumptuous in the film so this is where they shed some light on it for anyone who wanted more details.
Previews: There are a slew of previews that run before the film, a theatrical trailer as well as some BD-LIVE content if you’re hooked up to the net.