Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Produced by: Chris Clark
Screenplay by: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson
Cinematography by: Larry Smith
Editing by: Chris Gill
Studio(s): Reprisal Films
Distributed by: Sony Picture Classics
Release date(s): January 20, 2011 (Sundance)
July 7, 2011 (Ireland)
July 29, 2011 (United States)
August 19, 2011 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 96 minutes
Gross revenue (as of publication): $761, 079 (Foreign gross only)
Another week, another obligatory and rather boring introduction to my review(s). Not only have I seen this movie, but I have also seen Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Horrible Bosses. The reviews for these films will be coming soon, although I may well be heading to The Strand to re-watch HP7.2, as the press screening I went to, though I was pleased of course of the invite from my good friend and fellow film critic Daniel Kelly, was in 3D and plagued by an audience of families (3-year-olds way too young to see HP7.2 included) making whispering amongst each other interspersed with the occasional dropped popcorn box. Apologies for the Jamesian sentence there.
The movie we have here is an interesting case, given that this year seems to have had a tendency to produce comedies which are effectively biologically linked to those that have come before. As Bridesmaids is in many ways The Hangover with women, this has been critically received as the new In Bruges. When In Bruges came out a couple of years ago, I did enjoy it but it certainly wasn't the comic masterpiece that many people cracked it up to be. Here, we have Brendan Gleeson from that film being directed by John Michael McDonagh, the brother of the In Bruges writer-directed Martin McDonagh, so similarities are perhaps inevitable. In The Guard, a rather-anglicised version of a title that should have been The Garda (I'm nit-picking), Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a bit of a Bad Lieutenant type with an unorthodox style and a penchant for drink and prostitutes, is forced into an investigation with straight-laced by F.B.I. agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) when drug smugglers are attempting to bring contrabands into Connemara.
To start with what is good about the film, we must bring up one Sergeant Gerry Boyle himself. Regardless of whether or not he does things by the rules or is politically correct (which he certainly isn't), his character is a fantastic comic creation. John Michael McDonagh writes some of the most spiky dialogue in any comedy for some time, and the character of Boyle is very well-rounded. The big pro on this side of things is Brendan Gleeson. He gives such a fine performance as this bonkers, uncouth policeman. Just watching the facial expressions he pulls when his colleagues question his behaviour is a thing of beauty. Also, what could have been a poor drunken Irish stereotype is made whole and three-dimensional by Gleeson. He embodies the essence of that character, and this is the kind of performance that a man of his talents has been waiting for his entire career. Also, I like how John Michael McDonagh keeps the film sticking to it's guns. This is not a PG-13 comedy and it is admirable how unashamedly un-PC the movie is. It is a movie with some really strong comedic ideas, and it embraces the fine line of tension between horror and comedy, the darkness and the light.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that I laughed at a good few bits in the movie, frankly I was not able to escape the feeling that despite a couple of new ideas and funny parts, this was merely window-dressing to what is a tried and tested genre. Granted, McDonagh does have some good pointers in his script, but structurally it is all same old, same old. The buddy cop genre of 'good-cop/bad-cop' routine has been done so many times and The Guard frankly follows down the same pattern. Although Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan add pathos to the backstory of Boyle and his mother, it is a plot device that has been used over and over. Furthermore, the 'good-cop/bad-cop' routine is not even particularly well-balance. There is one scene, in which Everett's investigation are contrasted with Boyle's 'investigation' of two young women, where Everett's character seems appropriate in this movie. Otherwise, for the most part the character is a sore thumb. It is nowhere near as well-written as Boyle, whom the whole movie caters towards. Don Cheadle is a good actor, but is saddled with lackluster folly that is an excuse for a character. Finally, the ending is the movie is completely botched. There is nothing wrong with movies that are different in tone to the rest of the preceding film, but in this case, it seems inappropriate. I'll try my best not to spoil it, but for a movie so unashamed of it's no-bullshit approach, it felt like a copout and as though they were saying "You know what? There's more to this than the un-PC bullshit that you all enjoyed."
The Guard is one of those movies I get intensely frustrated at, perhaps more so than a terrible movie. On the one hand, there is a lot of good about the movie, as Sergeant Gerry Boyle is a fantastic character, Brendan Gleeson gives what I feel is thus far the best lead acting performance by a male of the year, and the sharp, jagged-edge un-PC humour is enough to make me want to see it one more time. However, it does feel as though they betray this with a truly poor ending, and that the film is essentially the Lethal Weapon-achetype buddy-cop movie, except set in Connemara and without the balance of the pairing of Riggs and Murtaugh. I was very disappointed by this film, and while I don't dislike it, I don't what the fuss that the critics are making is all about.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.8/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Very busy (tight schedule today, believe you me!)