Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Guard

Bland and salvaged from dreariness only by the moderate strength of its two lead actors, John Michael McDonagh's "The Guard" is a lackluster answer to brother Martin's "In Bruges," much in the same way Carlos Cuaron's "Rudo y Cursi" was to any of brother Alfonso's films. A good time at the picture show? Yeah, I liked watching it, but it's nowhere near as strong in any department as its predecessor, and you have wonder eventually what the point is.

It's a good idea to star Brendan Gleeson instead of giving him a supporting role, but if you're going to do that, you have to give him better material. Watching this film, I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something funnier or more interesting to come. Don Cheadle, playing the straight man, supplies some laughs and holds the screen, but it's really not enough. I admittedly didn't pick up some of what was said early on, due to the thickness of the characters' accents (this movie is set in Ireland and proud of it), but really there seemed to be something lacking.

The film follows abrasive Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Gleeson), who, though not really a horrible person, is not above taking (and doing) drugs from the pockets of deceased lawbreakers, as he investigates a case involving $500 million worth of cocaine. That's where FBI Agt. Wendell Everett (Cheadle) comes in, who comes to appreciate Boyle's company, despite some initial racial and nationalist issues (which, truth be told, are actually pretty humorous).

Since the POV is objective, we also get to meet the criminals (played by "Hunger"'s Liam Cunningham, "Kick-Ass"'s Mark Strong, and David Wilmot), who, though they talk about philosophers and insult colorfully, aren't the most interesting guys to watch (though one moment when Cunningham and Strong burst into laughter is pretty golden). There are also scenes with Gerry's dying mother Eileen (Fionnula Flanagan), probably the only well-defined female character in the whole film. (Of course, when you watch a film like this, you're not likely to find a lot of depth there. But the other three we get, two prostitutes and an ever weeping "Romanian" widow, are paltry stereotypes.) Around her, we get to see Gleeson show off his sweeter side, which is nice, though it doesn't really solve the film's problems (although I think McDonagh hopes it might).

I enjoyed this film perhaps a bit more than I'm letting on. But when I think back on an experience, I want it to be worth something in some way, and "The Guard" doesn't meet those standards. It's very uneven and ultimately doesn't really work. I really hope the next film by a McDonagh is Martin's. C

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