There’s a good reason why The Guard landed in the fifth spot of my top ten films of 2011: it was easily the funniest movie of the year. While that may be the case, the small theatrical release the film experienced didn’t help it gain the national exposure of other box-office comedy hits such as Bridesmaids or The Hangover Part II. So it isn’t until now that most will get to experience this Irish gem of a film.
Brendan Gleeson stars as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a small-town cop who has an unorthodox and confrontational way of handling police business. When a rumour that a drug smuggling crew is making a delivery in the area, the FBI enters the picture and begins investigating. This appearance coincides with a recent murder of a John Doe in the small town, who Sgt. Boyle identifies as one of the drug smugglers during a meeting of the minds with the FBI. While Boyle wants nothing more than to just let the whole situation just sort itself out while he goes about his own business, FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) has other ideas. While the two rarely see eye to eye, Everett knows (as much as he hates to admit it) that the only way he’s going to solve this case is with Boyle’s help.
Giving a rough outline of what the film is about simply doesn’t do it justice. While the story is strong and ties together well, it’s the sharp, witty dialogue between characters and brilliant performance by Gleeson that really make this the best of the bunch. Gleeson has received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in the film, and rightfully so. This is just another case of a role that was tailor-made for an actor, and Gleeson is that man. That’s not to say it wouldn’t have worked with someone else, it’s just that it very likely wouldn’t have been as natural. While The Guard doesn’t aim to be a realistic film, Gleeson plays the part so well that the entire small world around him seems a little more real and the things that happen within these walls seem somewhat possible simply because of what he brings to the screen.
In order for Gleeson’s character to work so well he needs someone to play off of, and that role falls to Cheadle. The two have fantastic chemistry, as Everett is very straight-laced, and a complete opposite to everything that is Sgt. Boyle. The scenes where the two get into a war of words because Boyle is trying to get a reaction out of Everett are priceless, and only a minor fraction of the hilarity found in The Guard.
Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot and Mark Strong make up the band of drug smugglers, who banter back and forth in a way that you’d never expect to hear. Their introductory scene is superb and really sets the tone for who these people are, while also showing that they’re deeper than the usual cookie-cutter bad guys. Also giving a great performance is Fionnula Flanagan, who plays Boyle’s dying mother Elleen. Her character adds a human element to Boyle, who may otherwise be just seen as a guy who doesn’t care about much at all. The scenes the two share together are beautiful and really adds to the overall emotional element that films of this genre this sometimes shy away from.
The film is written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother to Martin McDonagh, who directed the critically acclaimed In Bruges) who shows that he’s a natural at comedic writing and film-making in general.
While I could go on and on about just how great this film is, that’d simply build-up expectations that the movie just might not be able to live up to. Ah, whom am I kidding? The Guard will live up to all expectations and is simply a film that shouldn’t be missed.
The audio comes through incredibly clear, with the accents being smooth and completely audible on all levels. The video looks sharp and the drab shade of the town comes through superbly. A great transfer on both levels that keep you invested in the film instead of distracted by it.
The extras that are found here are fun and as plentiful as one would expect from a film such as this.
Audio Commentary by director John Michael McDonagh, Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle – It’s great to see all three come back to do this commentary, as they have a wonderful time playing off one another. For fans of commentaries this is a solid one with laughs and insight along the way.
Behind-the-Scenes – This feature runs at roughly 18 minutes in length with plenty of footage from the set, as well as thoughts from the cast and crew along the way. The problem with this piece is that I wish it were two or three times as long. The hilarious antics behind the scenes of the film are quite funny to watch, and anyone who picks this up definitely needs to spend the 20 minutes this feature takes to watch and do so.
Deleted/Extended Scenes – There are 24-minutes worth of deleted or extended scenes here. While some will give a few laughs, the overall perfect pacing of the film as is shows why these hit the cutting room floor – as per usual with deleted scenes.
Outtakes – There are three minutes worth of outtakes to be found here. They’re quick cuts where lines or forgotten and laughs are had. You know what to expect here, and it’s short and sweet.
Finally there’s Second Death, which is McDonagh’s short film that inspired The Guard. It’s a lot darker and not funny, so it’s rather odd that this inspired such a comedic masterpiece; however, it’s still a solid watch at roughly 10 minutes in length, and stars Liam Cunningham.
The Guard once again proves that the little guy can come out on top. While it had no major release and very likely wasn’t heard of by many, The Guard wound up being one of the best films of 2011. The performance by Gleeson is reason enough to hunt this Blu-ray down and give it a watch, the rest of the comedic gold found within is just gravy. Highly recommended.
Sony Pictures Classics presens The Guard. Written/Directed by: John Michael McDonagh. Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, Fionnula Flanagan. Running time: 96 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: January 3, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.