Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Guard (McDonagh, 2011)

So it's a Saturday and I decide to stay in and watch a movie. Well, I look about and I see that there's an an obscure picture titled The Guard which is apparently starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and Mark Strong, all actors I enjoy, and directed by an Irish bloke named McDonagh. When I read the last name, I think of Martin McDonagh, writer and director of two fantastic films in themselves... In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, probably among the greatest recent scripts I had seen performed since Chinatown and Casablanca.
So, when I hear that John Michael McDonagh is in fact the brother of Martin, I like to predict that the writing talent runs in the family.
Well, The Guard was not a fine script. But it was damn good movie and one that I'd be happy to watch again with a pint in hand and friends to laugh along with me.

Just to knock out the bad to begin with the plot in itself is not bad, but I expected to much of the genius intricacy that Martin had already showcased in his work... That everything's going to come back to something. If Martin McDonough had been working at the time Arrested Development was airing, McDonough would be a perfect writer for the staff. Part of the problem with the plot is that it sets up to be a sort of buddy cop film: Apparently, Brendan Gleeson's Garda would need to work with Don Cheadle's FBI agent to take an international drug smuggling ring... It's even marketed that way.
But that's simply not the case. Cheadle's actually just there to specifically be showed off by Gleeson's character. Gleeson has the upper hand almost the entire time. And it's not just that Cheadle doesn't really solve the case, it's that he doesn't do anything! At all! He's there to have banter with Gleeson and that's it. The structure of the movie sort of fails because there's not a real use for Cheadle's character, it could have been Gleeson's show the whole time. You could take Cheadle's character and you'd more or less have the same script.

In place of the lack of necessary plot device and progression though, the McDonough wit is there in spades. The humor is black and yet it is fresh, you don't hear jokes like these come along in a real while. There are brief poignant moments, particularly involving Fionnula Flanagan as the mother of Gleeson's character, but instead of being teary-eyed and overwhelming, it's poignant in the two characters sharing their observations and witticisms. It's kind of sweet.
My favorite small detail is Gleeson discussing his past visit to America with Don Cheadle... He had went to Disney World alone, no family, no friends, no romantic interest, no one. And as far as Gleeson's persona shows, he still had a ball. He loved it, he particularly mentions that he loved taking a picture with Goofy, it was a fantastic moment in his life.

You see, Gleeson's character, Sgt. Geary Boyle, is alone. He is almost totally alone, except for his dear mother. He antagonizes every one he comes across, including Cheadle's Agent Wendell Everett and his superiors, and he has a gas doing it. Almost nobody likes him, but he doesn't give a shit. Boyle is not Randy the Ram. He is not Travis Bickle. He is not Norma Desmond. He doesn't need your damn sympathy, his life's just fine in a sense, despite any setbacks he has. He is as he himself says 'the last of the independents.'

And yet he has his standards. His main objective in the movie is to find out the circumstances behind his partner's death. He feels it's deserved. He has his duty put before him and he performs it to the best of his abilities, regardless of how his superiors take it. The ending probably establishes his honor better than anything else. It is an ending that is expected, but I didn't take it in a bad way. It's how a movie like this was bound to end. Any other way would not have made sense.

The real strength of the movie lies entirely on Boyle's character. Sure, the movie is shot pretty well for a debut feature, and it's really funny. But you're not going to be interested in anybody except Boyle, much like you solely care about Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. And I would say it's worth it. I'd probably enjoy another look at the movie every once in a while. It'd be nice to see Boyle again. He's really a son of a bitch.

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