Monday, September 5, 2011

The Guard

"I'm Oirish! Racism's part of me culture!"

That line alone was enough to make The Flower want to see the new Don Cheadle/Brendan Gleason collaboration The Guard, in which a murder in a Gleaon's sleepy Irish county draws the attention of CIA Agent Cheadle.

Gleason is sort of a Bob Beckel character, happily getting stoned and whoring around while sort-of doing the occasional bit of police work. Besides a complete lack of political correctness, he apparently has complete contempt for the service.

I don't know what a "Guard" is, actually. I Wikapedia-ed and everything. In the movie, they seem like sheriffs—and the movie draws a strong parallel with the western genre, though almost a "piss take" as the Brits say—but they're apparently some sorta military outfit.

Not really important: Gleason is playing an Irish Clint Eastwood. So take a kind of edgy, hard-boiled, mysterious man who's not afraid to do violence, make him fat and drunk, not really keen on the violence part and really not all the mysterious—you know, maybe this comparison isn't working out.

Let's try this: The writer and director of 2008's sleeper hit In Bruges, Martin McDonagh is the executive producer of this film, and it has a very similar feel to it. It's not as dark, but it is a kind of buddy picture/tale of honor and redemption.

Actually, it's sort of High Noon-ish, as it turns out that Gleeson is the only honest Guard in Ireland. And after the rest have been bought off (with advances secured through the trafficking of over half a billion dollars in drugs, a financial estimation of considerable consternation throughout the movie) he has to face them down alone.

Well, alone with Cheadle, of course.

Also similar to In Bruges, our three villains are philosophical sorts. Less believable as actual criminals than as meta-criminals who commit atrocities while examining their own motivations and character flaws while they do it. That may sound like a dig but I find it appealing, personally.

I mean, having grown up in a time where "natural" was de rigueur, I'm distrustful of all these highly artificial things that seem less focused on verisimilitude and more on a putative authenticity. It's all fake; sell it enough to make it work, not so much—a la reality shows—that people walk around believing they've seen something real.

But I digress. The point is, you get villains that are the sort of villains you love-to-hate. Liam Cunningham is the evil mastermind, Mark Strong (whose career will survive his turn as Sinestro in The Green Lantern) is his smart muscle, and David Wilmot is the psychopath—or, wait, no, he's a sociopath, if I recall correctly. (The issue of "psycho" versus "socio" being a debate from the movie.)

Fionnula Flanagan plays Gleeson's dying mother, whom the Guard smuggles booze (and the occasional joint) to in her hospice care. She shares her son's irreverence, and the scenes between them are really quite touching without even the barest hint of mawkishness.

All-in-all, a lively mashup of police procedural, western, comedy, drama—something that defies easy categorization. The Flower enjoyed it quite a bit, except for the end. The ending is not spelled out, and she took it to mean one thing when the closing song ("Leaving on a Jet Plane") really leaves no room for doubt as to what happens.

Of course, it was no Gran Torino—pretty much her reaction to every film these days.

The Boy and I also enjoyed it greatly, no comparisons to Gran Torino required.

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