By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I ran across a copy of the Oscar Short Films 2005 DVD several years ago and after watching it the violent, smart-mouthed Irish short Six Shooter, directed by Martin McDonagh, really stood out. In 2008 I learned the director was directing a feature-length film starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. In Bruges was one of my favorite films of the year, and the McDonagh name reached must watch status. This year gives us another McDonagh film, except this time it’s Martin’s brother, John Michael in the directing chair.
The Guard follows a foul-mouthed, generally unscrupulous small town cop in ruralIreland (Brendan Gleeson) who is drawn into the investigation of a drug smuggling ring that he’d rather ignore. When an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle) gets involved and the criminals manage to offend his nebulous moral ode, he starts get serious.
Couldn’t leave well enough alone, could ya?
This is definitely a McDonagh-style film. The dialogue is fast, smart, and hilarious and the stylized violence is set up by an ‘honor among thieves’ worldview and spiced with a spaghetti western sensibility.
Gleeson is perfect for this, which is probably why he’s had a part in every McDonagh feature so far. He has a great ability to add gravitas to even the seediest role, and this cop as we are introduced to him is certainly seedy, irreverent, and racist. However, Gleeson is able to gradually reveal his character’s intelligence and personal code of ethics. It is a hell of a performance and a hell of a character who carries the film.
Although he doesn’t have to alone. Cheadle plays the straight man to Gleeson’s quirks and offensive sense of humor, which keeps the movie grounded, and I also have to toast the three drug-runners, headlined by Mark Strong, who wax philosophical when they’re not putting a bullet in someone.
Nothing to punctuate Kant vs. Hegel like a little murder…
So, to recap, The Guard looks good (excellent framing that always has more going on in the picture than you notice at first glance), sounds good (an interesting choice, Calexico, scores the film), and just feels good (that final shootout is pretty badass).
I’m sorry, mining humor from precocious children just never does it for me. “He’s acting like an adult, but he’s really just a kid!” I get it, thanks. The problem with 99% of kids, though, is. they. can’t. act.
Why are you so shrill? Why?
I was pretty much on board with every decision this movie made right until the ending scene. Without getting all spoilery, it ends on an ambiguous note, but wants to make EXTRA SURE you know it. Even that’s forgivable enough, but I can’t see any reason for the final flashback, except for using Gleeson’s bizarre-ass smile to send me to bed with a hearty helping of nightmare food.
It’s not quite as good as Martin’s In Bruges, but if you want another round of irreverent dialogue, Irish wit, and high action, you’ll probably quite like John Michael’s The Guard.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time the little kid shows up
Take a Drink: every time the drug dealers have a highbrow conversation
Take a Drink: whenever Gleeson reveals something surprising about himself
Drink a Shot: every time Gleeson says something blatantly racist