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John Michael McDonagh
Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan, Dominique McElligott, Sarah Greene
Writing Credits:
John Michael McDonagh

The Guard is a comedic, fish out of water tale of murder, blackmail, drug trafficking, and rural police corruption. Two cops (Gleeson and Cheadle) one an unorthodox Irish policeman and the other, a straitlaced FBI agent, must join forces to take on an international drug-smuggling gang.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$76.834 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$5.325 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 1/3/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director John Michael McDonagh and Actors Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson
• “Making of The Guard” Featurette
The Second Death Short Film
• Outtakes
• “Q&A with Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson and John Michael McDonagh”
• Three Deleted Scenes
• 12 Alternate and Extended Scenes
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Guard [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 4, 2012)

For an update on the police “buddy flick” formula, we head to 2011’s The Guard. Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a cop in slow-paced small-town Ireland. His work life gets more intense after he and his brand-new partner Aidan McBride (Rory Keenan) find a murder victim with a bullet in his head.

Matters get even hotter when FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) arrives to investigate a massive drug-smuggling operation. There’s a connection, as the murder victim was one of the guys involved with the dope. Everett pairs with the individualistic Boyle to track down the culprits.

Take that synopsis with a grain of salt, as it doesn’t sum up Guard very well. In reality, the movie focuses most strongly on its characters; indeed, the plot often seems borderline superfluous, as the action does little more than enable a framework in which we learn more about the personalities.

That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it works just fine here. Sure, the narrative is something of a mess, as it rambles a bit and doesn’t make a ton of sense. But it doesn’t matter, as the film’s sense of humor and character allows it to overcome any potential story concerns.

At one point, Everett offers an appraisal of Boyle along the lines of “I can’t tell if you’re really dumb or really smart”. (Altered to remove profanity!) That’s the key to the Boyle character – and to Gleeson’s excellent portrayal of him. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more elusive performance than this, as Gleeson constantly keeps us off-guard. One minute Boyle seems like a total doofus, while the next he shows his superior mental chops.

Gleeson never telegraphs the truth, and he never winks at the camera. We buy Boyle as simpleton as much as we do the brilliant Boyle. Actually, though it seems pretty clear that Boyle’s smart but he simply likes to toy with others, Gleeson’s straight-ahead acting ensures that Boyle never boils down into a simplistic personality.

This becomes more important when you consider what a tremendously annoying character Boyle could – and probably should – have become. The film packs a number of quirks into the role, and a lesser actor could’ve turned Boyle into a smarmy, irritating presence.

Instead, Gleeson plays the role with nary a hint of whimsy or cuteness. He does the part almost entirely straight, and that makes Boyle radically more effective. We accept the character’s oddities much better because Gleeson presents them in such a matter of fact manner.

Cheadle doesn’t have as much to do; he essentially plays the straight man to Gleeson’s oddball, and the two don’t share as much screen time as I’d like. Still, he helps balance out the movie and makes it more accessible; he serves to open up the film from its provincial roots.

This remains Gleeson’s movie to win or lose, however, and he nearly single-handedly makes it enjoyable. The script lacks great narrative heft, but it includes enough wit and cleverness to ensure that it succeeds. With that as a background, Gleeson elevates the material and turns The Guard into an enjoyable experience.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Guard appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The image looked fairly solid.

For the most part, sharpness looked good. A little softness crept into the image at times, but not frequently. Instead, the movie almost always appeared nicely detailed and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as this was a clean presentation.

In terms of colors, the movie went with a chilly teal most of the time, though a yellow “sodium vapor” look and a few other tones occasionally manifested themselves. The tones consistently seemed clear and concise within those parameters. Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots came across as appropriately dense but not overly dark. Overall, the picture appeared positive.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Guard, though it didn’t have as much to do as you might expect from a flick with criminal elements. More character-based than action-oriented, the soundscape occasionally popped to life, but it usually concentrated on music and dialogue. The environmental material helped broaden the movie’s horizons – especially during the climax - but don’t expect a lot of active, involving material; the mix usually remained fairly subdued.

Audio quality was very good. Speech seemed crisp and distinctive, as I noticed no flaws like edginess; accents rendered lines tough to understand at times, but those issues didn’t stem from the accuracy of the source. Music seemed warm and full, while effects showed good clarity and definition. This was a good but unexceptional track.

The Blu-ray comes with a nice set of supplements. These launch with an audio commentary from director John Michael McDonagh and actors Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and locations, story/characters, editing and deleted scenes, and a few other production areas.

This commentary starts off slowly and never quite recovers. While the participants get chattier as the movie progresses, they don't often have a lot of interest to say. Mostly they laugh and tell us what they like about the movie. A few good nuggets emerge - and some of the banter can be amusing, such as a tongue in cheek discussion of Cheadle's role in hiding gangster Whitey Bulger - but overall, this isn't a particularly useful track.

Making of The Guard runs 19 minutes, 21 seconds and offers info from Gleeson, Cheadle, and actors Liam Cunningham, Rory Keenan, Michael Og Lane, Mark Strong, David Wilmot, Fionnula Flanagan and Katarina Cas. The piece looks at characters and story, and the work of McDonagh. The most interesting aspects come from the featurette’s behind the scenes shots, as they deliver some fun moments from the set. We don’t learn much via the soundbites, though; they’re fairly superficial and don’t add a lot.

Next comes a Q&A with Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson and John Michael McDonagh. In this 10-minute, nine-second reel, they cover the characters and performances, the flick’s “un-PC” content, inspirations and sequel potential. This is a reasonably informative piece but nothing terrific.

Directed by McDonagh, The Second Death delivers a short film made in 2000. It goes for 11 minutes, 31 seconds and offers a tale that foreshadows The Guard; it also includes some Guard actors like Cunningham and Wilmot. It’s much darker than The Guard, but it’s an interesting flick and a nice addition to the set.

After this we find some Outtakes. The collection goes for three minutes, five seconds and shows the standard allotment of mistakes and merriment. There’s nothing unusually interesting here.

The disc throws in plenty of cut footage. We get three Deleted Scenes (6:07) as well as 12 Alternate and Extended Scenes (18:37). The former tend to be somewhat unexceptional; only the one in which Boyle flirts with McBride’s widow seems moderately intriguing. As for the alternate/extendeds, much of the time they simply throw a few minor tidbits into the mix, but we also get a bit more exposition, such as some elements connected to Boyle’s mother. I don’t think any add much to the experience, but they’re worth a look.

The disc opens with ads for Higher Ground, Life, Above All, Take Shelter, Carnage, The Skin I Live In and A Dangerous Method. These also appear under Previews, and the Blu-ray throws in the film’s trailer as well.

The Guard had the potential to turn into a grating, self-conscious comedy, but instead, it delivers an entertaining character-based crime story. The credit goes mostly to Brendan Gleeson, as his excellent lead performance keeps us constantly engaged. The Blu-ray offers very good picture, positive audio and an erratic roster of supplements. Despite the spotty bonus materials, this is a nice release for an involving movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.3684 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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