Although I can’t imagine the Irish Garda being a massive fan of the film, The Guard is a very entertaining movie, with a strong script, tight direction and a couple of excellent performances from Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.
Gleeson plays small town cop, Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a man who’s more interested in hookers than keeping law and order, but whose quiet life is disrupted by the arrival of FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle), who’s on the trail of an international drug smuggling ring. Boyle isn’t interested in this multi-million Euro operation, and with the two men initially having a very confrontational relationship (largely because of the Irishman’s decided non-PC approach), it would appear they’ll never be able to work together.
However Boyle finds that everywhere he turns, his life keeps coming back to the drug dealers, whether it’s one of his favourite prostitutes trying to blackmail him into keeping quiet, or the criminals offering to pay him off (as they have the rest of the local force). As things start to reach a climax, Boyle realises he may have to trust Wendell and that if he does, he could even get a shot at some form of redemption.
What’s probably most memorable about The Guard is its sense of humour. It’s a very funny film, with plenty of great lines and a wonderfully droll and unselfconscious performance from Brendan Gleeson (if I had my way, he’d be up for awards). It’s a movie that has a voice but never gets bogged down in preachiness, and unlike a lot of post-Tarantino and Guy Ritchie indie crime flicks, doesn’t prize style over substance. That said, it does look very good, and the lighting in particular is superb. However first time feature director John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges helmer Martin McDonagh) uses the production design to tell the story rather than letting it overwhelm things.
The Blu-ray certainly brings out the style of the film, with nice bright colours and excellent clarity. There’s occasional softness and grain, but compared to the majority of low-budget independent movies, it looks great. There’s also a decent selection of special features, including McDonagh’s slightly odd short film, ‘The Second Death’, starring Liam Cunningham. Alongside that are a few other bits and pieces, such as a making of featurette, audio commentary and deleted scenes. It’s not an amazing selection, but it’s not bad.
It’s the film that’s the main event here though, and if you fancy a well written, expertly performed and very funny crime flick, you could far worse than seeking out The Guard. A huge hit in Ireland (it’s the biggest independent Irish movie of all time in the country) and a decent success over here in the UK at the cinema, hopefully more people will find it now it’s come to DVD and Blu-ray.
Overall Verdict: With a great sense of humour, snappy pace and a couple of superb turns from Gleeson and Cheadle, you can tell why this was such a massive success in Ireland.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac