Friday, August 26, 2011

The Guard

Now this may not mean all that much considering the kind of year that we've been having film-wise, but "The Guard" is the best movie of 2011.  So far, of course - I do have hopes that other movies will top this one.  But for now "The Guard" is king.  Long live the king.  The conclusion I've drawn about 2011 is that America as a filmmaking nation has failed this year.  We made "Drive Angry" and "Winnie the Pooh", otherwise we should be ashamed of ourselves.  How did we fuck up "Captain America"?  Seriously?  How did we fuck that up?  So instead, I think I'm going to see what Ireland can deliver.

I first ran into "The Guard" when I snuck into it for ten minutes waiting between "Another Earth" and "The Devil's Double" at the nearest arthouse movie theatre.  Both of those movies are completely forgettable and disappointing, I've been all through that before.  But "The Guard", that was something special.  I could tell immediately it was special because people were laughing, something I rather doubt people do at arthouse cinemas.  If you want to look sophisticated and "above Hollywood drivel", you can't laugh.  You're not supposed to enjoy a movie because its funny or exiting or cool, you enjoy it because its some kind of brilliant exploration of the hidden emotions of socioeconomic racial disparities or a postmodern deconstruction of socialist gender modes, or some bullshit.  Anybody who has enjoyed a Lars von Trier film is not a person who is emotionally capable of laughter.  However, "The Guard" got them to laugh, they weren't loving this movie for the art, they were loving it because it was a great movie.

"The Guard" is a dark comedy starring Brendan Gleeson as an Irish cop (or "Guarda" as their cars call them) who largely does not give a shit.  He's fat, he's alone, he generally screws around with everybody he meets, and he likes his liquor and whores, that's it.  As a matter of fact, Brendan Gleeson doesn't give a shit so much, he's actually the last Irish cop around on the west coast.  So when a trio of ruthless yet oddly philosphical drug dealers come into town, its up to Gleeson and his Black America buddy cop (the buddy cop has to be Black, this is a law), Don Cheadle, to kick some ass.  Everything about this movie is fun, hilarious, and well-scripted.  Its just perfect for what its trying to do, its excellent.

The very first movie that comes to mind when I was watching "The Guard" was "In Bruges", the other amazing Irish indie movie.  If you haven't seen "In Bruges", you are a far less complete person than I.  Once upon a time, being a full person required losing your virginity, getting a job, and starting a family.  Those days are over.  Now you just have to see "In Bruges" and your life is largely complete. That movie is simply beyond fantastic.  Both funny and sad, dramatic and clever, and beautiful yet entertaining.  Everything you could ever want a movie to be, "In Bruges" is.  See it now, I will allow no further discussion on this point.  You can continue reading this review in a few days once that task is complete.

(Several days later.)

"The Guard", of course, stars Brendan Gleeson, who also co-starred in "In Bruges" with Colin Farell.  Clearly Gleeson has only continued to make brilliant movies, while Farell sadly has fallen to the point of remaking perfectly fine 80s horror movies for idiotic modern audiences who should know better by now*.  Of course, both "The Guard" and "In Bruges" are Irish.  They both have a really dark sense of humor and excellent timing.  The dialog in these movies has a richness and cleverness to them that I can only envy.  But there's a reason why "The Guard" sounds so much like "In Bruges", its made by the other McDonagh.  Martin wrote and directed "In Bruges", then his brother John Michael made "The Guard".

There are so many great and funny moments to "The Guard", its nearly impossible to get into all of them.  Brendan Gleeson hires two prostitutes dressed as guards, then meets them dressed in full formal party attire.  When the main villain is threatening him, he just stares blankly and drinks an entire giant glass of milkshake.  The villains spend most of their time debating philosophy and wondering if there's more to life than killing people and smuggling loads of cocaine.  Everybody hates people from Dublin.  Then it all leads up to something like the Irish-version of a Wild West showdown, complete with music that easily could have been lifted out of a Spaghetti Western.

Brendan Gleeson's character, Captain Boyle, is an overweight cop who revels in being the most corrupt cop in Ireland.  While his subordinate tries to do real policework, he plays a shooter arcade game in the bar.  Boyle will make an overtly racist remake to Don Cheadle (who is just playing Don Cheadle in this movie) right in front of all his superiors, because he knows he can get away with it.  He can say whatever he wants, they'll let him slide because he has the next big break in the case.  Nobody can figure out if Boyle is incredibly stupid or ten steps ahead of them.  Its a great character, and honestly, I want to see a lot of more Captain Boyle.  This character can become the next Captain Jack Sparrow, singlehandedly driving an entire franchise.  I'd watch an entire legion of sequels if they kept up this manic energy.  Just as long as he gets to make more Waco wise-cracks, I'm there.

This movie isn't all comedy though.  Brendan Gleeson's mother has a terminal disease, and she's dieing in a hospice.  He visits her several times throughout the movie, though even these scenes are usually more comedic than depressing.  John Michael McDonagh could have gone supremely melodrammatic with this plotline, full of tears, soul-crushing goodbyes.  Instead, Mrs. Boyle gets the funniest line in the entire movie.  The sad and the humorous come together seamlessly, at no point does this movie lose its tone.  Some movies completely fall apart and drag when they try to become serious, "The Guard" succeeds exactly where they fail.  That right there, is a masterpiece of filmmaking.

I'm actually at a loss to think of a complaint about this movie.  Other than the fact that its only playing in arthouse cinemas.  Its a shame.  This movie is way better than anything out there with a wide release now, and most people probably don't even have the chance to know it exists.  I'm sure some people will skip right over this review because they've never heard of "The Guard".  But I'm doing my part to get the word out, I wrote this review.

Let the word be known:  "The Guard" kicks ass and you need to see it.  Tell everybody.  Tell the world.

* I will not see the remake of "Fright Night".  I refuse.  "Fright Night" is my favorite vampire movie of all time, there is nothing about it that needed to be adapted, improved upon, or fixed in any way.  I hate remakes to begin with, and this is killing the horror genre more than any other problem.  An entire generation is being bred not knowing about the classics, only the half-assed rehashes.  I can't even find "Dawn of the Dead" in Blockbuster anymore, I can only find the 2003 remake.  Yeah, the 2003 remake was a fine movie, but sometimes I want to see the original!  People deserve to know about these movies, not their drowned-out soulless echoes.


  1. This sounds like a good movie to watch on a friday. Hopefully after a week of boredum in every class this can lift my spirits back up. But i didn't Martin McDonagh had a brother. And I'm so glad someone else agrees that "In Bruges" is a great movie. Being the only black cenima nerd in the South it's hard to find people who can watch a movie and not keep asking if the guy is going to kill the other guy for no reason.

    -The 1 & only Uzuki

  2. Have you seen Cowboys and Aliens yet?

  3. If I had, I would have wrote a review of that movie. Instead I saw this, which is almost certainly better.

  4. Cowboys and Aliens is alright. Not a great movie, but it's enjoyable.

  5. Hey, Blue, hope you and your's are safe during the hurricane.

  6. 'Anybody who has enjoyed a Lars von Trier film is not a person who is emotionally capable of laughter.'

    Ouch, I'm a fan of Von Trier and I love a good comedy - arthouse, Brooks, classic or modern...

    Anyway, watching this movie right now and figured I'd check your review... Sounds promising.