Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Short Take: "The Guard" (***)

I'll say that it's taken too long for me to get around to reviewing this film, and in fact it feels somewhat irrelevant at this point given how long it's been in theaters. Still, I felt suddenly compelled to give whatever thoughts I had on this particular film before the opportunity is gone altogether. I saw this film at the impetus of my planning towards studying away for next year, and at that time I was considering Galway, Ireland. Of course I don't expect Galway to be nearly as corrupt a drug and sex ring as depicted by the film, and somehow that lessened my interest in going there.

The film starts out in a rather strange way, with car full of reckless young boys are seen speeding across the countryside, blasting abrasive music, and I started wondering if I was in the right film. Then, of course, they speed past a police car, and crash shortly afterwords. Out comes Brendan Gleeson's Sergeant Gerry Boyle, examining their bodies, picking their pockets, and then getting on with his routine. He's clearly lacking any righteous motivations typical of the job, and there's the idea that this isn't going to be quite a cheery affair.

And then as the film goes on, a sort of funny thing happens, and it turns out that it's exactly that. The film expands to bring in FBI agent Everett, played by Don Cheadle, and a trio of drug smugglers played by Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, and David Wilmot, and this turns out to be something of an unexpectedly fun pleasure. The simple assemblage of those three antagonists is brilliant. I've openly had frustration with Strong's over-abundance in the cinematic landscape, but he really belongs in films like this. He's got a strong comedic presence in his work, and should work chiefly on that. Cunningham is an absolute delight, and I only wish he was in more films than he has been. Wilmot is the real find of the group, proving an odd and diminished presence, but has the most to chew on of the three of them.

However, in spite of all the strong work, this is Gleeson's show to have for himself. I found myself in equal shares of admiration and pity for Gerry Boyle. How can you not have a twinge in your heart for the poor guy. He's the comedic backbone of the film, absolutely killing the audience at moments of the film. And at the same time there's this lonely ache of a man who doesn't have anywhere to go, and isn't about to start looking. Gleeson hits it home, and for my money it's the best lead male performance to come out of this year. The film itself, relatively lacking in comparison to "In Bruges", the director's brother's film. Still, most definitely worth checking out, as solid fare like this seems so rare these days.

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