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Feature
The Guard is a comedic, fish-out-of-water tale of murder, blackmail, drug trafficking and rural police corruption. Two cops (Gleeson and Cheadle), one an unorthodox Irish policeman and the other a straitlaced FBI agent, must join forces to take on an international drug-smuggling gang. (From the Sony synopsis)

 Guard, The
Whether or not you like The Guard will likely be dependent on how much you like Brendan Gleeson. For me, the answer is "a lot". He's been in a handful of popular movies, like the Harry Potter series and 28 Days Later, but he is rarely ever in in the leading role. He completely owns this movie, and I'm thrilled to see him finally get top billing in a role that fits him like a glove. The film was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, the brother of Martin McDonagh who wrote and directed 2008's In Bruges (also starring Gleeson). Though In Bruges was more accessible and had more star power behind it, The Guard shares the same dark and irreverent sense of humour with a dash of violence. Sergeant Boyle is the type of character you know you should despise on a moral level. When he's not on hard drugs or messing around with prostitutes (the Blu-ray loading screen is a line of cocaine), he's usually barking mean spirited insults and racist remarks. Yet somehow, you can't help but love him. There's a warmth and simplicity to the character, and in lesser hands it probably wouldn't work. Supporting characters are strong too. Cheadle puts in a memorable performance as FBI agent Everett, and serves as a perfect opposite of Boyle. The villains, comprised of Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, and David Wilmot are hilarious in their own right. The McDonagh brothers have both had knockout directorial debuts, and I can't wait to see what they make next. Hopefully they continue to work with Gleeson too.

 Guard, The
Video
This 1080p video transfer from Sony Pictures is a little disappointing. Sony usually delivers on the technical front, and while the movie looks reasonably good in high definition, there are some distracting artefacts that took away from my viewing experience. The movie has a very colourful palette for indoor scenes, with very saturated Irish greens being particularly abundant. If you look closely into these large patches of colour you can see where compression took a bite out of the image, leading to some blocky gradients (see the wall in the first cap). This could be a result of digitally boosting the colours as well. Outdoor scenes have a much gloomier colour scheme and look more natural. Much of the video presentation has a fine film grain appearance that looks great though. Many scenes have a very bright light in them with actors or objects in the foreground. It's probably more a fault of the filming choices than the digital presentation, but it gives the objects in the foreground an ugly glow around the edges (see the third cap). Some scenes look like they may have had DNR applied to them, due to their blurry, almost pastel-like appearance. For the most part though, colours look great and leap off the screen, and detail is plenty sharp on close-up shots. I expected more from Sony, but there aren't enough problems here to make it a deal breaker for fans.

 Guard, The
Audio
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track gets the job done, more or less. The film itself is pretty low key in terms of production, so there isn't a lot for the audio mix to prove. Dialogue levels are fine, though if you're anything like me you'll need subtitles to make out what's being said with these thick accents. Occasionally the recorded dialogue doesn't seem very well separated from the noise of the environment, so some clarity is lost. Surround effects are pretty limited to background noises, like rustling winds. There is a shoot out in the film, and while the gun sound effects themselves feel a bit generic, they are appropriately loud and cracking in the sound mix.  

 Guard, The
Extras
The Commentary with Director John Michael McDonagh and Actors Don Cheadle & Brendan Gleeson is hysterical. If you found the movie to be your sense of humour, you'll absolutely want to check out this commentary track. Gleeson, Cheadle, and McDonagh practically joke their entire way through it, making cracks at each other and sharing funny anecdotes from the shooting process. Those looking for a technical breakdown and some insight into the making of the movie won't find much here, but if it's kicks you want there's plenty to be had. There's also a subtitle track for it.

Making of The Guard (HD, 19:21) is an enjoyable little behind-the-scenes feature. It kicks off with an interview with Brendan Gleeson cut with footage taken from on set. Eventually other characters chime in and share their thoughts on the character of Sergeant Boyle. Cheadle and Gleeson joke on set about what actors they would like to dub their lines. There's a lot of raw footage of the film makers and actors joking around on set and having fun.

 Guard, The
The Second Death (SD, 11:32) is a short film from Michael McDonagh that features a few of the actors from The Guard and an early incarnation of the character that went on to become Sergeant Boyle. It also features Aidan Gillen who some may recognize from The Wire and Game of Thrones. It's an interesting little short, more serious in tone than The Guard, but a nice inclusion that fans should appreciate.

Outtakes (SD, 03:05): Just your usual outtake real. Some actors mess up lines. No big surprises here, but it got a couple chuckles out of me.

 Guard, The
Q&A with Actors Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson and Director John Michael McDonagh (SD, 18:09) is a post-screening Q&A from the LA Film Fest. They cover subjects like casting, the shooting schedule, and what drew them to the project and the characters. Cheadle mentions that he brought his own clothes to Ireland for shooting. It really puts the scale of the production into perspective. I found this to be very informative.

Deleted Scenes (SD, 06:07): There's an extra bit of footage of Boyle with the prostitutes, some more arguing between Boyle and Everett, an awkward church service, some mildly philosophical exchange between Everett and Boyle, and additional character scenes that I can't go into detail on without revealing plot details. There's nothing particularly hilarious or memorable here, but if you can't get enough of the characters there is some mild enjoyment to be found here.

Extended & Alternate Scenes (SD, 18:37): Much like the deleted scenes, this is just more snippets of dialogue and character interactions. It's interesting seeing the different approach McDonagh took with bits of the story. There wasn't much additional humour here though.

 Guard, The
Overall
The Guard is a brilliant dark comedy buoyed by sharp writing and memorable performances from Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle. Even when the hilarity slows down Sergeant Boyle still makes for a fascinating, enigmatic character. This Blu-ray from Sony Pictures has an imperfect but decent video transfer with an audio track that does its job. There's a surprising amount of entertaining extras and a particularly funny audio commentary from Gleeson, Cheadle, and McDonagh.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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