Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Guard (2011)

That Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), he’s so unorthodox. He takes half the drugs he finds on corpses, he hires prostitutes on his days off, he unashamedly makes racist slurs, he tampers with murder-scene evidence. He’s a renegade, marching to the beat of his own drum, abiding no-one’s rules but his own! Um, OK.

In rural western Ireland, he pretty much is the police force. There are no ramifications if he does drop a tab of acid taken from the pocket of a recently deceased drunk driver. There are no consequences if he does take a day off, because nothing really happens in such a sleepy community.

Enter some international drug smugglers (Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Mark Strong), dropping onto the Connemara coast any time soon, with millions of dollars worth of cocaine. Too much for one rural force to handle, the FBI has sent over Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to assist in the arrest.

The Guard is trying to be both a buddy-cop film, as Boyle and Everett must put aside their differences and team up to get the job done, and a fish-out-of-water story, as both Boyle and Everett are well out of their respective comfort zones with what unfolds.

Similarities have to be drawn between The Guard and Hot Fuzz (2007); the premise is similar, there are themes in common. However, Gleeson and Cheadle lack the chemistry that made Pegg and Frost so enjoyable to watch. They’re not friends, they don’t overcome difficulties to reach a utopic equilibrium, and they’re not funny even when they’re at loggerheads.

Separately, both Cheadle and Gleeson are good actors with solid portfolios, but together they both fall flat, though I think that the script is more at fault than they are. I had high hopes for Gleeson after In Bruges (2008), but The Guard lacks both indie charm and high-spec polish, and a human core on which the thin plot could revolve around.

I found Boyle to be hugely irritating and not remotely funny. Had I warmed to him, I feel as though I would have enjoyed this film so much more. He fumbles accidentally into victories, treading a fine line between being incredibly stupid or incredibly smart, and whilst this is deliberate on the part of the film, it grew tiresome. In an attempt to humanise him somewhat, they give him an ailing mother, but this element isn’t explored enough to be of any real emotional depth, and felt a bit tacked on.

Mark Strong played the most interesting character, though his screen time was low, as a jaded drug lord with a penchant for quoting philosophy. Brooding and surprisingly attractive, he’s tired of life and is craving something new, something exciting. I felt an affinity with him; he felt about life like I did about the movie.

It rolled along with no mystery, no tension, no laughs (for me anyway), and the climactic action sequence was a let down.

The dialogue was uninspired, the characters relied on cliches and tired stereotypes. With memorable lines such as “I thought only black boys were drug dealers, and Mexicans”, “I thought black people couldn’t ski, or is that swimming?” and “I’m Irish, racism is part of my culture!” Well, I don’t think that it should be. Ironic racism is still racism, and even if you “don’t mean it”, I still find it crass, and a lazy way to get cheap laughs. Are racists still even worth laughing at? Aren’t we tired of that whole schtick now?

Cinematographically, the scenery wasn’t utilised to its highest potential. The location could have brought more atmosphere to the piece, but it just sat there in the background, being beige and a bit bleak. The music didn’t add anything of note either.

The Guard isn’t a bad idea, but it didn’t nearly come close to living up to its potential.

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