The Guard (2011) Movie Review

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 17.59.44 In America, when it comes to dark comedies full of quirky, well-developed characters, a common duo that comes to mind would be the Coen Brothers.  Lately in ireland, the 1s who come to mind for that genre have been the McDonagh brothers, Martin and John-Michael – and over the last 6 years, their work has become more and more associated with what makes Irish humour so dark, and yet so funny at the same time. After the legendary film In Bruges, but before Seven Psychopaths and Calvary, came a little film called The Guard, which was written and directed by John-Michael, and produced by Martin.  Set in Connemara (an area of land around the coast of Galway), our film stars Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, who could effectively be described as a highly intelligent version of Chief Wiggum.  He’s a complicated character who searches crime scenes and car accidents for drugs and money before starting an investigation, and on the side he lovingly visits his dying mother and enjoys both drink and the company of Dublin prostitutes.  One day, an FBI Agent named Wendell Everett (played by Don Cheadle) arrives in Connemara to hunt down a small group of Irish (and 1 english) drug traffickers, who are smuggling half a billion dollars of cocaine.  Despite being polar opposites, Boyle and Everett end up working together.  Meanwhile, the drug traffickers, Francis (played by Liam Cunningham, aka Davos Seaworth in Game Of Thrones), Clive (Mark Strong, aka that english actor who has appeared in most things these days) and Liam (David Wilmot) are bribing the whole police force…but they can’t seem to bribe Boyle.  Does that mean Boyle’s an honest cop?  Or is he so corrupt that it’s closer to reverse psychology?  You decide. Some stories focus greatly on the primary goal, but in The Guard, the plot takes a backseat.  It runs it’s course, but it’s not the most memorable part of the movie.  What’s most memorable is the character development, themes and dialogue.  We’re suppose to see them working hard, and trying to catch these traffickers.  But most of the time we see Boyle cruise through it in first or second gear, even to the point that he wouldn’t focus on the investigation because it’s his day off.  In a way he’s a bit like Marge from Fargo (only he’s more like an irish, middle-aged Eric Cartman), yes he’s solving it, but he’s in no hurry.  And due to his corruption, the approach he takes is very unorthodox, compared to what would be expected…and that’s partly what makes it so funny. So what themes does this film cover?  Well, there’s quite a lot.  There is a lot of racism in this film (from Boyle and from some of the town folk), but the racism is more for self-deprecation rather than being nasty.  It is the Irish laughing at the Irish.  It’s the mocking of both the clash in cultures and the flaws of one’s own culture (which, when acknowledged, is a sign of true patriotism).  It is an aspect of this film that is liable to be lost in translation.  Wendell Everett’s attempts at solving the case prove to be difficult not only for being American but for being African American on top of that.  Another major theme that comes to mind is how you will find interesting people everywhere.  Gerry Boyle is a deep, multi-layered, and fascinating character, who just so happens to be a cop in a small town where only a handful of things happen, to the point that he draws pictures at his desk in work. What really intrigues me though is how this film is rated 15.  If you ever come across the DVD/Blu-Ray, you might notice that there are tons of deleted/extended scenes…and these scenes, especially when it comes to the dialogue, would not only bump it up to an 18-rating, but be stepping into the realms of Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle.  Legendary?  It depends on you. Now to break down the film into characteristics.  The acting was great.  Even the 1s that probably don’t act for a living were at least fun to watch.  Brendan Gleeson is evidently a national treasure, with this film being only 1 of many feathers in his cap.  He was hilarious and awesome as always.  Don Cheadle did an brilliant job as an authority figure who is clearly outside of both his environment and comfort zone.  Liam Cunningham is also great in this, and when you compare him here to his character in Game Of Thrones, he proves he can do a range of roles (even if his characters are often miserable middle-aged men).  Mark Strong plays Mark Strong with some quirky dialogue, and overall a great cast of actors playing characters who would otherwise be found on Craggy Island (Father Ted reference).  The music was done primarily by Calexico, providing a main theme that has shades of American or Spaghetti Westerns…maybe because the Irish stereotypically love country music, and it works particularly well during some of the more action-orientated scenes.  We’re also provided with some music by Bobbie Gentry, Chet Baker, Liam Clancy and John Denver.  Sometimes to set the scene, but also as a way of saying Gerry Boyle’s got good taste (he likes Chet Baker).  The cinematography perfectly captures that ordinary feel of the location.  This isn’t some film noir set in New York or London, this is a sleepy sea-side area that could be an alternate location for Last Of The Summer Wine.  The story, like I said, took a backseat to focus on characters.  Which isn’t a bad thing, but at times it felt a little unfocused.  It’s a noticeable feature, but not much of a problem, because the rest of it is great. Would I recommend this film?  Only if you can watch it with an open mind.  I know someone who turned it off within the first 5 minutes because they don’t tolerate bad language.  If you’re 1 of those people, you might not take this film well, because the swearing, while not particularly graphic or aggressive, is generally part of how some characters talk.  If Political Correctness is your religion, you might boycott this film.  If you love Guy Ritchie movies, you will likely love this film, and if you like any other film by the McDonagh brothers, chances are you’ll love this film too. Overall rating: ****1/2 out of 5

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