The Guard Reviews
Unlike any other kind of buddy cop film available on the market, The Guard is not a generic comedy film. In actual fact, it is a film which takes time to examine the developing relationship between its main characters as more than just a comedic gimmick. There is humour in the film, but it comes from the realism of the film's characters more than any wisecracks or ridiculous situations. As a result, it's more of a black comedy along the lines of In Bruges (2008) which was another crime comedy film to feature Brendan Gleeson in a Golden Globe-nominated performance. Audiences more familiar with the American narrative formula may not embrace the humour in the same manner that viewers from the homeland are likely to, and I say that from personal experience as there were times when I wasn't completely sure whether the film was being comedic or dramatic. But either way, it was still an enjoyable experience.
The entire mood of The Guard is extremely serious so its hard to take it as a comedy all that often. There is much gritty territory that gets tackled in The Guard and the characters consistently approach everything in a very real manner, giving the feature an intense feeling. The humour is not always enough to sufficiently lighten the experience away from its dramatic virtues, but there are surely a good amount of laughs in the feature to keep it from getting too dramatic.
The Guard doesn't attempt to hide anything underneath a barrage of action scenes because it is not an action comedy; it relies on the interactions between characters in dialogue-rich sequences to carry the film. The screenplay offers audiences a completely unconventional perspective on differentiating cultures. While it is traditional that American characters are of far lower sophistication than their UK counterparts, The Guard completely diverts this convention. The Irish protagonist is dedicated to his cause but he is also a self-centred and rule bending official a foolish nature about him. By contrast, his American counterpart is an intelligent and articulate African-American who is show continuous disrespect by the locals in Ireland. The Guard provides both a humourous look at real Irish culture and a critique on stereotypes, ensuring that it doesn't stoop to simply reducing them to single-note jokes. This theme is played off for both comedic and dramatic effect in the film, and its just one of the many examples in which the humour comes from the drama in the film and vice versa. In essence, The Guard is very much a deadpan black comedy. A lot of the humour may go over the heads of viewers because it is not an explicit brand of humour, rather a subtle one which uses cultural differences and quips of the screenplay to get its audiences chuckling. I saw strong character development happening in these scenes and thought that the dialogue functioned with enough charm and development to compensate for the small-scaled simplicity of the actual story. But I can't say I found myself laughing all that often. I feel like if you told someone that The Guard was a drama and they went into the film with that mindset, it would be very easy to come out of the experience still believing that it was. For me, it was a comedy-drama at best. It was certainly an entertaining one which managed to maintain a brand of charm consistently throughout, but it was not the romp I was expecting. As well as that, though I enjoyed the buddy relationship at the heart of the film I found that the oscillation between the two as main characters interfered with further character development that could have taken place.
With The Guard being a slow-paced independent film, it is one which definitely relies on the charisma of its stars to ensure that it is carried into successful territory. Luckily I can certify that this is one area in which The Guard does not come up short.
Brendan Gleeson is a brilliant lead in The Guard. The entire film largely centres around his character as he is a very real one. Sergeant Gerry Boyle is a protagonist full of flaws; one who bends the law for his own personal gain but maintains a powerful allegiance to justice. Since he is flawed there is no idolization of the character, and his tendency to give in to temptation and make mistakes shows clear humanization of him and makes the film seem all the more real. Throughout the entire film there is a mystery surrounding whether the protagonist is a genius or an idiot, and Brendan Gleeson manages to keep the mystery alive with an attitude of self-indulgent idiocy and dedication to the cause. Brendan Gleeson is unpredictable in The Guard and remains deeply rooted in his role which displays his strong talents to work in both comedy and drama. He manages to make wisecracks at the right times without losing focus of the dramatic heft in the narrative, and he manages to keep audiences guessing in the process. Brendan Gleeson sinks naturally into his leading role in The Guard, and he works with director John Michael McDonagh to bring out the best in the script.
Don Cheadle also makes a powerful lead. The actor is noted for his natural sophistication and charm which he transfers over to The Guard into a fish out of water context where he is surrounded by racist locals. The man consistently approaches the material with a direct ambition for his character to find answers and does so without rising to a level that condescends the people around him, ensuring that there is no egotism in the part. Don Cheadle is a naturally admirable actor, a status which he brings to the part of FBI Agent Wendell Everett to create another likable protagonist for the film. Teamed up with Brendan Gleeson, the two make a great leading duo.
Mark Strong is also a solid supporting presence who once again tackles the role of a villain without flinching.
The Guard's small-scaled story and slow pace limit the extent of material it can explore while the brand of humour can prove to walk a strange line between deadpan and drama, but with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle bringing their natural charisma to the experience it is kept actively entertaining most of the time.
Unfortunately, despite a few laugh out loud, gut bursting moments, and a great duel performance from both Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, 'The Guard' suffers from poor pacing, and an abundance of unfunny scenes filled with unlikable characters.
"There's probably just about the right amount of quirkiness in the characters and comedy so that it doesn't impact on the story too much."