MFR Rating: ★ ★
In Bruges is probably the pinnacle of cinematic black comedy. With The Guard also featuring Brendan Gleeson playing a similarly rough and rude character and with John McDonagh directing (brother of In Bruges director, Martin) comparisons are inevitable. But comparisons are deeply unfair as whilst one has plot that revels in its location’s mundanity and characters clearly out of their depth leading to fantastic comedy and a climatic finale, the other has characters as mundane as its location and scripting which never begins to surface beyond general rudeness.
Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle. From the beginning of the film, as the Sergeant hilariously samples LSD from the pocket of a car crash victim, there is no way to feel grounded in Gleeson’s character who feels in absolutely no way likable or like someone who could possibly, ever be a policeman, let alone a sergeant. In fact never did I feel the remotest slice or empathy for Gerry. Unlike his and Colin Farrell’s characters from In Bruges, who had superb onscreen chemistry, there’s no vulnerability to Sgt Boyle or natural rapport between him and his fish-out-of sea partner, FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle). Whereas Gleeson’s character is simply rude to everyone and generally a detestable pig, Cheadle’s plays just a bland, unmemorable, American good-cop. Agent Everett comes over to small town Ireland to investigate a half-billion dollar drug smuggling gang. There’s clearly a lot of scope for some Hot Fuzz-esque humour in their cultural contrast but maybe the writers were too concerned about ripping off the work of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, because instead we have one guy playing it insufferably straight and one guy just being generally insufferable. It’s hopelessly dull and the lack of chemistry is tedious.
The plot never really gets going and the film’s climax just feels contrived and devoid of anything vaguely resembling catharsis. To be fair, I liked the way they left the film, it’s just a shame I was too bored to really care. It tries to play on dark humour, but really most of it is just an old bloke going around being unpleasant and repulsive and we’re somehow meant to find this amusing. I can honestly say I didn’t laugh once. It was a zero laugh comedy and at this particular screening, you could make out the individuals making the laughter. And that is, in my book, a failure.
The Guard is out on 19th August in the UK and out now in the US. Running time: 96 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Review by David Rank