The Guard is very much a fish-out-of-the-water comedy. It’s a crime film that teams up to unlikely characters together in order to solve a big drug case. Brendan Gleeson steals the show as the unorthodox policeman Sergeant Gerry Boyle. Boyle is lazy, racist and heroic and he has no troubles getting under the skin of Don Cheadle‘s agent Wendell Everett; a by-the-books FBI agent. Director John Michael McDonagh makes an impact with his first full-length feature. It’s a dark comedic work of art that flourishes because of its characters and their oddly deep perspectives on life.
Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a proud policeman who speaks his mind freely and isn’t afraid to mingle with drugs and prostitutes. He’s got a certain way of going about things and he doesn’t like interference and people that undermine him. When an FBI agent by the name of Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) comes to town looking for drug dealers Boyle begins to poke his nose in the case providing the bureau with his two cents.
Boyle and Everett are teamed up despite Boyle’s initial racial comments towards African Americans and from that point they piece together the case in hopes of catching the drug dealers. The Guard is a tale about corruption, heroism and what it really means to not judge a book by its cover. Its comedic approach is dark, truthful and very comical. John Michael McDonagh captures Brendan Gleeson‘s best performance yet.
Brendan Gleeson is unmistakable as Gerry Boyle. He walks a fine line between being incredibly smart and incredibly stupid. Don Cheadle‘s character actually points that out at one point in the film. Underneath Boyle’s crude humor and inappropriate statements is a layer of old fashion charm. His moral compass may be a bit off, but his intentions are always clearly for the good. He’s a loving son who respects the law where it counts.
Don Cheadle‘s Wendell Everett counteracts Boyle’s shtick with his by-the-book approach to every situation. He’s a devoted husband with children and a hard working agent. He does however show a soft side when he shares a few drinks with Boyle. He may be on the straight and narrow, but he isn’t afraid to flat out call bullshit when Boyle makes preposterous claims.
The two work together like ying and yang. Gleeson takes the majority of the jokes, but Cheadle throws in more than enough jokes to get a reaction. Most of the fun in The Guard is centered on these two and whenever they meet up. John Michael McDonagh seems to understand that because he evenly distributes their connected scenes. More often than not The Guard features Boyle riding solo while Everett is busy working on another part of the case, which means the film spends a good amount of time building up to their eventual paths crossing. It’s a great technique that keeps things flowing and constantly moving forward.
From start to finish The Guard is a very different comedy than most are used to. The comedy might take a few seconds to stick, but once it grabs hold of you it becomes an onslaught of laughter and good times. The characters are odd ducklings, but they’re never perceived as complete idiots. McDonagh emphasizes that as the film moves from scene to scene. The Guard will no doubt gather a respectable following in the years to come and it deserves it.
Sony’s 1080p video transfer is a touch on the soft side. Detail is often smudgy and inconsistent. The film stays true to its lifeless and rainy setting by keeping the colors faded. It’s not a bad transfer by any means, but it weighs in just a hair above average. Clarity isn’t hard to spot, but it comes and goes.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t that much different from the video. It’s active when the gunfire picks up, but soft for the majority of the film. Dialogue is focused on the front channels while gun shots, rain and added effects are displayed on the back channels. The track doesn’t really engage the ears until the final firefight. It’s more or less a front loaded affair.
The disc is topped off with a few notable extras. There’s an audio commentary track with the cast that offers a few more laughs and a decent amount of extended/alternate and deleted scenes. I found myself mostly engaged with the making-of documentary that provided more insight of the character of Boyle and what he meant to Brendan Gleeson. Check out the full list below.
- Audio Commentary: Featuring director John Michael McDonagh and actors Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson.
- Making of The Guard (HD)
- The Second Death (SD): A short film by McDonagh that inspired The Guard.
- Outtakes (SD)
- Q&A with Actors Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson and Director John Michael McDonagh (SD)
- Deleted Scenes (SD)
- Extended & Alternate Scenes (SD)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- Sony Previews (HD)
The Guard is a rare gem of a film that’s a combination of dark and smart comedy. Its characters are just as interesting as the story, if not more. Brendan Gleeson‘s Boyle is wickedly entertaining and fun to be around. Don Cheadle adds some comedy to his resume as the supporting player who isn’t afraid to bite back whenever Gleeson’s character goes too far. The Guard is a very strong first impression from filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and it leaves me anxiously awaiting his next film.
The Blu-Ray comes with a soft video transfer and a tame audio track. The special features help lift the score up a few notches and the general quality of the film is high enough to warrant a rental. Some might find the comedy to be too out there, but if you give it a chance The Guard will reward you with a plenty of laughter and amusement. Highly recommended.
The Guard will reward you with a plenty of laughter and amusement. Highly recommended.