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The Guard Blu-ray Review

The Guard (2011) movie poster The Guard

US Theatrical Release: July 29, 2011 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Writer/Director: John Michael McDonagh

Cast: Brendan Gleeson (Gerry Boyle), Don Cheadle (Wendell Everett), Mark Strong (Clive Cornell), Liam Cunningham (Francis Sheehy-Skeffington), Fionnula Flanagan (Eileen Boyle), David Wilmot (Liam O'Leary), Katarina Cas (Gabriela McBride), Rory Keenan (Aidan McBride), Dominique McElligott (Aoife O'Carroll), Sarah Greene (Sinead Mulligan), Pat Shortt (Colum Hennessey), Laurence Kinlan (Photographer), Owen Sharpe (Billy Devaney), Gary Lydon (Gerry Stanton), Darren Healy (Jimmy Moody), Mνcheαl Σg Lane (Eugene Moloney)

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Brendan Gleeson's post-Harry Potter career begins with The Guard, a film that has earned the Irishman his second Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical in four years. It's an interesting niche that the Hollywood Foreign Press has found Gleeson well-suited for:
playing across from an actor fairly recognizable in America in profanity-laden European crime films that many would consider dramas. In a similar vein to Martin McDonagh's 2008 caper In Bruges (which saw Gleeson lose the Globe to fellow lead Colin Farrell), The Guard casts Gleeson alongside Don Cheadle. This marks the directorial debut of John Michael McDonagh (Martin's brother) and his sophomore screenplay, following the 2003 Australian period drama Ned Kelly.

In the titular role, Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a police officer in quiet, small-town Ireland. Boyle doesn't fit any traditional definition of heroism. He's portly, unethical, crude, and racist. He samples illegal drugs found on the deceased, is a frequent client of prostitutes, and never hesitates to speak his mind. He doesn't seem to take his calling all that seriously either, interrupting an important briefing on a missing cocaine shipment valued at $0.5 billion to have a bit of fun.

On assignment from Atlanta, FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle) is not amused by Boyle's brutish wisecracks and politically incorrect remarks. And yet, the sergeant becomes the American's best ally on a narcotics investigation that soon expands to cover multiple homicides. Sobered by the suspicious disappearance of his partner of one day, Boyle starts giving the matter the thought it deserves, but not without trading barbs with Everett. Meanwhile, Boyle's mother (Fionnula Flanagan) has been given just a few weeks to live, another concern hanging over his head.

In "The Guard", American FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) teams up with small-town Irish police sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) on a deadly international narcotics investigation.

Though advertised as a buddy cop comedy, The Guard is more like straight crime drama with a fair amount of colorful levity. Gleeson is perfectly cast in his role. His big ears and big gut establish him as a teddy bear whose brash manner is anything but cuddly. He gets away with saying bad things and doing bad things because he seems like a harmless oaf, whose jurisdiction largely doesn't need him to serve or protect. The good qualities start to clearly shine through Boyle's foul mouth and unorthodox ways, as he reveals himself to be a caring son, a dutiful officer, and a man of rare integrity. He is an unlikely hero easy to root for. The more professional Everett, an educated family man who's seen far more action in the States, is also sympathetic, but less on the ball than our first impressions suggest.

The two stars have nice chemistry together, making one wish they were teamed up for far more of the movie than they are. Their collaboration is the highlight of The Guard,
but it is resigned to sharing the spotlight with criminals (led by Mark Strong, adding to his repertoire of bald baddies) and character-defining moments. The central case is not as interesting as the personalities trying to solve it, but McDonagh gives us enough of both to consistently divert. Not as light a film as you may want or expect, this is nonetheless light on its feet, moving briskly and never slowing with overlong set pieces.

One significant obstacle may stand in the way of American viewers' enjoyment: the Irish characters are difficult to understand. You almost need a moment to process every line uttered and that moment does seem to lessen the impact of the funnier bits. Not that the film is full of big laugh-out-loud moments; amusing interplay abounds, but not to release us from action or suspense, only to establish a pleasant comic atmosphere.

Bald criminal Clive Cornell (Mark Strong) does not take kindly to corrupt officer Gerry Stanton's (Gary Lydon) questioning of his business methods. Sergeant Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) pays a visit to his dying mother (Fionnula Flanagan).

"Pleasant" seems to be a good way to describe The Guard, even if I foresee just as many viewers finding it unpleasant or the tone tough to crack. There are a number of nice moments and the ambiguous finale mostly satisfies in an inevitable way, but the whole isn't cohesive or riveting enough to classify as more than an agreeable diversion.

Two weeks after Gleeson's Golden Globe nomination was announced and two weeks before he loses the award probably to The Artist's Jean Dujardin, The Guard makes its U.S. home video debut on Tuesday on a separate DVD and Blu-ray, the latter of which we review here.

The Guard Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP)


The Guard looks very nice in the Blu-ray's 2.35:1 transfer. Colors are good, the print is clean, McDonagh's visuals are sufficiently compelling, and there's never any issue larger than rare, practically imperceptible grain. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio does not offer a particularly immersive mix, with dialogue remaining quiet and low-key. The track does leap to life in the energetic climax, when many a gunshot is fired. Prior to that, action is kept to a minimum. A bit of Gaelic is translated in auto-selected, player-generated subtitles, which didn't show up for me on my first viewing.

When not talking about their characters and film, Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson amuse themselves with Cheadle's Christopher Walken impression in 'Making of 'The Guard.'" In John Michael McDonagh's short "The Second Death", Liam Cunningham drinks a lot to forget about his problems.


Sony's substantial extras slate, surprisingly all in standard definition unless otherwise noted, begins with an audio commentary by writer/director John Michael McDonagh and his two stars, Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.
They do a lot of listening and laughing, with Cheadle trying to notice the film's visual style. If you want to virtually spend time with these three, you might enjoy this, but don't expect to gain much if any insight from such a viewing.

"Making of The Guard" (19:20, HD) gives us a lot of B-roll footage and a mix of sarcastic, goofy, and sincere cast remarks largely about their characters and their director. It is both informative and entertaining.

A very cool inclusion is next: John Michael McDonagh's 2000 short film The Second Death. This 11½-minute film shares its setting, some actors and a feel with The Guard, whose antihero is foreseen in a police character here. Liam Cunningham plays a stoic man who drinks a lot one night in a pub to forget the demons that haunt him. It's not great or even good, but it is interesting to see.

Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson, and John Michael McDonagh answer questions at the LA Film Festival. A post-mass walk and talk between Gerry (Brendan Gleeson) and partner's wife Gabriela (Katarina Cas) is the longest of three deleted scenes.

An amusing 3-minute reel of outtakes consists primarily of flubbed lines and the laughs born out of them.

McDonagh, Gleeson, and Cheadle participate in a Q & A session at the Los Angeles Film Festival (18:09). The actors talk about their attraction to the project and their characters, while the director discusses his influences, intentions, and production.

Three deleted scenes (6:07) are supplied, giving Don Cheadle some choice acting opportunities and Sergeant Boyle a post-church walk and talk with his partner's wife. Twelve extended & alternate Scenes (18:37) predictably extend and alter existing scenes from the movie. There isn't too much remarkable unused content, but it's worth preserving nonetheless.

"One Tough Cop" is not an alternate title but one of various phrases featuring in the film's US theatrical trailer. The bad guys (Mark Strong, David Wilmot, and Liam Cunningham) share the screen in the Blu-ray's menu montage.

Finally and fittingly, The Guard's awards-touting US theatrical trailer (2:18) is included and in HD.

"Previews" replays the same six trailers with which the Blu-ray opens, for Higher Ground, Life, Above All, Take Shelter, A Dangerous Method, Carnage, and The Skin I Live In.

A BD-Live section allows you to stream trailers for everything from new and upcoming home video titles to Men in Black III. This is apparently the only extra exclusive to Blu-ray and it doesn't even include the movieIQ+sync data that seemed to be a Sony standard.

The menu montage divides the screen into various shapes, freezing video to a stylish greyscale while an excerpt of the spaghetti western-inspired score plays. As always, this Sony Blu-ray supports bookmarks and excels at resuming.

The side-snapped case uses Blu-ray packaging translucency to display more artwork on the reverse/inside.

Brendan Gleeson is "The Guard."


The Guard supplies a fairly accessible and appealing taste of Irish cinema with satisfactory but not quite extraordinary characters, story, performances, and directing. Sony's Blu-ray delivers a high quality feature presentation and a wealth of bonus features, many of which are worth your time. If you think it sounds worth a look, then it is.

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Related Reviews:
New: Midnight in Paris • Fright Night
Brendan Gleeson: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire • The Village • Braveheart • Beowulf
Don Cheadle: Brooklyn's Finest • Ocean's Thirteen | Mark Strong: Kick-Ass • Sherlock Holmes • Body of Lies • Stardust • Sunshine
Kill the Irishman • Hot Fuzz • The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
The Disappearance of Alice Creed • Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection • Darby O'Gill and the Little People

The Guard Songs List (in order of use): N.E.R.D. - "Rock Star", "Star of the County Down", "The Humours of Glin", "Carrickfergus", "The Trip to Durrow", Liam Clancy - "The Parting Glass", Middle of the Road - "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep", Bobbie Gentry - "Ode to Billie Joe", Chet Baker - "Everything Happens to Me", John Denver - "Leaving on a Jet Plane"

Download The Guard: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Calexico from Amazon.com

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Reviewed December 31, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Sony Pictures Classics, Reprisal Films, Element Pictures, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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