Film: The Guard [2011, Ireland]
Where I saw it: London, England
Who with: Scott
Brendan Gleeson rating: *****!
The Irish comedy The Guard comes oh-so-close to being an incredibly satisfying bit of dark humor. While it goes slightly off the rails a bit, it's still got enough moments of sheer lunacy, pure deadpan delight and originality to make it one of my favorites of the year. The Guard ends up being crackpot entertainment, delivering heaping slices of quirky Irishness while only being tinged slightly with a few spots of disappointment due to the fact it could have risen to "cult classic" status without the false steps.
Brendan Gleeson plays "Gerry Boyle," a small village cop who would rather be doing any number of things instead of doing police work. This includes drinking, drugging, ordering prostitutes from Dublin...that sort of thing. When a dead body shows up in his village, "Gerry" is sent for a briefing by an FBI agent "Wendell Everett" [Don Cheadle] on the gang of criminals in their midst. The pair become an unlikely team with "Everett" becoming increasingly baffled, amused and irritated by the outlandish, blustering, racist force of nature that is "Gerry Boyle."
By far the best thing about The Guard is this character of "Gerry Boyle" concocted by writer/director John Michael McDonagh and performed by Glesson. While Glesson has shined before, his performance in this is electric and nuanced and probably the best role he's ever done. The man can flat out act. Watching the interaction between Gleeson/Cheadle is pure pleasure for me. When character actors [of which both Gleeson and Cheadle are] get leading roles, they always play to their strengths and one of those attributes is to let fellow actors have space to move around in a scene. Such is the case with The Guard, as when these two people say their dialogue, the pauses, flourishes and spaces the duo fill in are magical. It's a joy to watch.
What holds The Guard back from elevating itself from being better than the really good? My first gripe is it gives the gang that Gleeson/Cheadle chase after too much screen time. These scenes take away from the best thing in the movie--Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle--and the gang conversations regarding philosophy is forced and overwritten. It just felt way to fake and written some of the things the gang talks about. Every second that Gleeson's "Gerry Boyle" was not on the screen is a waste of time in The Guard's story. It's too bad McDonagh got too cute and in love with writing about this absurd gang because it damages his film in the end.
The Guard, erased of these wrong choices by McDonagh and his insistence on showing us the uninteresting gang, could have risen to the top as possible favorite of 2011. It's still hovering in my top ten and definitely worth seeing for the comedic tour-de-force that is Brendan Gleeson, but it had the chance to be truly special.