Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Guard

An endlessly quirky comic thriller set in the middle of Irish nowhere, The Guard has become a small art house hit this summer.  The film stars veteran character actor Brendan Gleeson (always a phenomenal presence, even he will likely be best remembered for playing Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter films) as an endlessly quirky police sergeant.  With a penchant for whores and drugs, Gleeson's Gerry Boyle is an amusing character study only because the actor himself is so gifted at getting through the very dense, cleverly, if a bit too cheeky, scripted shenanigans that writer\director John Michael McDonagh (brother of playwright and In Bruges writer\directed Martin McDonagh) baits and throws our\his way.  A murder and drug-smuggling ring in a sleepy Irish town offset the story in The Guard, and Sgt. Boyle, with the aid of an FBI agent, played by Don Cheadle, are the detectives in charge; the baddies are played by Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, and modern cinemas go-to villain Mark Strong.  And it's Gleeson's commitment that shines the brightest in the genre-switching, tonally all over the place film-- that's part fish out of water comedy, part character study, part hard-boiled detective yarn, part all-too quirky indie crowd-pleaser.  With all the extraneous parts groveling for screen time, it's expected that whole souffle will eventually cave in.  The principle flaw is that under McDonagh's novice direction, The Guard exhibits little control of its pace, and thus the comedy falls flatter than it should (not that dialogue doesn't have a spark, nor the actors have trouble in delivery), and the violence feels inconsequential, in fact the story itself in The Guard slogs away for long stretches, as if the filmmakers were more interested in amusing asides rather than a coherent whole.  The reason may be that Gleeson's performance bests everything else in the movie, it's a great creation in search of better material.  C+  

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