The Guard (2011)

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Released 22-Dec-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation-Live action and music from score.
Audio Commentary-Feature length with director and two stars.
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(18:33) Presented 1.78:1 - excellent.
Deleted Scenes-(24:09) 2.35:1, 16x9, 15 scenes in excellent quality.
Outtakes-(2:59) 2.35:1 and 16x9. Approx. 12 short bloopers.
Short Film-The Second Death (11:13) 2.35:1 and 16x9.
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 92:41 (Case: 97)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Michael McDonagh
Studio
Distributor
Transmission Films
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Brendan Gleeson
Don Cheadle
Liam Cunningham
David Wilmot
Rory Keenan
Mark Strong
Fionnula Flanagan
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $32.95 Music Calexico


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Three minutes of action pre credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The first feature from writer / director John Michael McDonagh is The Guard. Although this is a gripping and engrossing police yarn, the project is let down by its original premise. Granted, there is a freshness to the setting and the highly localised characters and dialogue, but this does not conceal the fact that this is very familiar stuff. Nevertheless the film is technically very strong, and the performances from the two main protagonists raise the bar considerably.

     What we have here is a reworking of an old tried and true chestnut. A city slicker cop goes into the sticks to assist the crusty, colourful local law enforcement officer to solve a crime. The setting in this case is a small town in western Ireland where the law is represented by Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson). Boyle, overweight and almost over-the hill, is a confrontational, ornery personality with a subversive sense of humour. Gerry has a dying mother (Fionnula Flanagan, recently in TV's Brotherhood) and a fondness for prostitutes, preferably more than one at a time, but no interest in the international cocaine-smuggling ring that is flourishing under his nose. Enter a rather exactingly proper FBI agent, Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), seeking Boyle's assistance in catching the drug smugglers. (Why must these characters always have names like "Wendell"? I guess it all started with In the Heat of the Night, with Poitier's "Virgil Tibbs".) So, once again we have the established "hick" cop, experienced and crusty, having to combine forces with the shiny "city boy" in order to catch the bad guys. We know that these two contrasting protagonists will initially clash, with generous dashes of humour, but finally will unite and succeed in their task. Somewhere along the way we will learn "surprising" facts about the vulgarly gruff local. McDonagh's script discloses that Boyle has unsuspected sophistication lurking domestically, in his wardrobe, decor and choice of music. No, this time it's not opera, but Chett Baker! We also know that by the final fade-out the bad guys will be defeated and mutual respect and admiration will flow between the two enforcers of the law.

     McDonagh has been able to give considerable freshness with his beautifully photographed Irish locales and picturesque local characters. The dialogue is good, crackling with wisecracks, and the music, courtesy of Calexico, pleasantly ethnic. Back to the dialogue for a second. It must be said that the heavy Irish accents, combined with a small amount of Gaelic dialogue, demanded my intense concentration in order not to miss anything. I persevered, but a couple of times almost weakened and turned on the subtitles. What does really elevate the film, though, are the performances of the two principal actors. Both Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) and Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) have proved themselves to be amongst the best and most versatile of screen actors. Gleeson here has the showier role, and he extracts every nuance from it, but Cheadle is no less impressive as the doggedly determined, chip-on-his-shoulder outsider. It is a treat when these two are both on the screen swapping sharp and snappy lines. There is strong support from the minor actors which include Liam Cunningham (TV's Game of Thrones), Liam O'Leary (TV's The Tudors) and Mark Strong, who seems to be in everything, including the upcoming Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy.

     The film is beautifully photographed by newcomer Larry Smith, with most attractive widescreen compositions. Experienced editor, Chris Gill (The Invention of Lying), has undoubtedly contributed much to the accomplished polish with which this comparatively small production is presented.

     Those who enjoy this genre will undoubtedly gain much pleasure from this film, combining action, drama and humour in a very satisfying mix. Any lack of originality in theme and character is somewhat camouflaged by the Irish locale, minor characters and the outstanding performances of the two stars. But you might want to turn on the subtitles in some of the scenes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This well-made film is given a very fine DVD transfer.

     Presented at the ratio of 2.35:1 the image is sharp and clearly detailed. The widescreen photography, courtesy of cinematographer Larry Smith, makes excellent use of the widescreen image. It is very pleasing to see relatively new filmmakers using the full "CinemaScope" canvas with imagination and creativity. The colour palette is generally wide and vivid, with some scenes muted befitting the rather cold and bleak Irish locales. Skin tones are first rate. Shadow detail is excellent in the numerous dark scenes, and I was not aware of any video or film faults on the screen.

     There are English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which were sampled and found to be very good, with appropriate placement across the image. All titles are white, with no colour differentiation for speakers or effects.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are three English audio streams : Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 48 KHz, Commentary Track : Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded and Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired : Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded.

     There is no lack of creativity in the creation of this film's soundtrack. The dialogue is basically front and centre, clear, with no sync problems. There is the occasional problem from the heavy Irish brogue. There is extensive use of the surround fields for effects throughout the entire film, whether it be the environmental sounds of the sea, cars racing along picturesque roads or the interiors of bars and police stations. The music, which is extensive throughout the film, is all beautifully reproduced, with ample emphasis from the subwoofer. This is not an explosive soundtrack, but it does provide a dynamic and satisfying experience.

     The Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired was sampled and found to be excellent, delivered, as usual, by a sedate mature male voice.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There is a meaty collection of worthwhile extras that add value to this disc.

Main Menu :

     The menu screen is simple but the entire menu is imaginatively designed. After a short live action montage we get a screen with two wood panelled doors framing a centre panel of live action from the film. Original music from the film provides the audio.

Feature Commentary

     This feature length commentary is given in conversation between the director / writer John Michael McDonagh, and his two stars, Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle. It is what you would expect, with many humorous anecdotes about the filming. What lifts this particular commentary is the sincerity of the trio and their obvious mutual respect. This very likeable trio provide humorous and human insight into their filming experience - with lots of emphasis on the Irish locale and locals.

Behind the Scenes (18:33)

     This behind the scenes look at the filming of The Guard is, once again, more genuine than most. This is actual production footage, sometimes off the set and at others from behind the camera looking at the actual filming. There are interviews, many seemingly between takes over coffee, with Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan, Fionnula Flanagan and Katarina Cas. The featurette has excellent editing, with an amusing montage showing the director's "fussiness" in his attention to set detail, as well as an excellent final ninety seconds montage with music.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (24:09)

     Presented without any chapter stops, we have approximately fifteen scenes presented in format and quality similar to that of the feature itself.

Outtakes (2:59)

     This is actually a collection of approximately a dozen short bloopers, again presented in format and quality of the film itself.

Short Film : The Second Death (11:13)

     This short film was produced in 2000. Written and directed by McDonagh and starring Liam Cunningham, a number of the cast are featured in The Guard, namely Dermot Healy, Gary Lydon, Owen Sharpe and David Wilmot. There are also appearances from Aiden Gillen and Michelle Fairley of TV's Game of Thrones. Presented in very good quality 2.35:1 ratio and 16:9 enhanced, this is a darkly atmospheric supernatural piece that is worth seeing.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 release misses out on : Q and A with Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson and John Michael McDonagh, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Summary

     The Guard is a film that will please many. Although lacking in conceptual originality, there are the brilliant performances of the two leads combined with action, drama, and humour enough to keep most happily engaged for an hour and a half. The Irish setting, the music and the excellent technical aspects all contribute to a very solid film. The DVD package is made even more enjoyable by the vastly superior extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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