Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
List Price
$19.99
Amazon
$8.44 (58%)
3rd Party
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

The Guard

Street Date:
January 3rd, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
December 23rd, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2011
Studio:
Sony Pictures Classics
Length:
96 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

We just had our annual meeting of the Utah Film Critics Association. It's a time where we all get together, vote on the year's movies, and feel a slight air of importance. This year had some great candidates for best actor, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ended up winning for '50/50.' Although, I must say that I voted for Brendan Gleeson in 'The Guard.' Why? Because I truly believe his was the best acting performance of 2011.

Comedy is hard to do. The timing is crucial. If an actor doesn't have comedic timing it's easy to spot. Jokes fall flat and the movie usually turns into a slog. On the other hand if someone possesses the rare art of perfect comedic timing, then the movie becomes infinitely enjoyable.

Gleeson follows the golden rule when acting in a comedy. Never act like you're doing anything funny. That's exactly what he does here as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, an unabashedly, unashamed, unorthodox Irish policeman who has just come across a mysterious murder that may indeed have "occult overtones."

Boyle never acts socially acceptable. He's completely open about his use of hookers and illicit drugs even though he's wearing a police uniform. The unconventional cop isn't something new. We've seen it a thousand times in movies and on television. Frankly, if there was a movie or TV show about a cop who played it exactly by the book we'd most likely be bored out of our minds. So, since we've seen characters similar to this a thousand times over, this one has to be just a little different right? Well, that's where Gleeson comes in. He creates a character that, even though we know we've seen before, we're still drawn to. He's charming and hilarious even when he's being crass and rude.

When a straight-laced FBI agent from the U.S. is thrown into the mix played by Don Cheadle, Boyle barely even blinks. He's not intimidated by the FBI man and instead continuously throws him off guard with his piercing barbs that he calls jokes.

The movie's plot involves a large amount of cocaine and drug smugglers, but that isn't important. The reason you're watching this movie, the reason you're glued to it is because of Gleeson. An actor who because of his exemplary character acting usually blends into the background instead of standing out. Here he does anything but blend. He shows off his deft comedic timing, delivering over-the-top lines like they were a part of everyday dialogue for him. He spouts outrageously inflammatory, and racially charged dialogue and makes it seem casual. His motives are a mystery most of the time. What does he gain from his comments? Is his game to catch people off guard? Is he feeling out his new FBI acquaintance to see if he truly is a friend or foe? Or is he completely ignorant of social mores? Who knows.

All I know is that Gleeson makes it worth it. Every line of dialogue is hilariously subversive, Gleeson's delivery is deliciously deadpan. Thinking back on it I'm not sure if Boyle smiles once, or even cracks a grin. All the time sticking to his deadpan facial expresses. Almost like he's telling a joke that he's not even in on. Or is he even joking? Whatever Boyle is up to, I only know one thing: it's the funniest and best performance of 2011.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

This is a Sony Pictures Classics release. The movie comes in a standard keepcase with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc inside. It's noted as being a Region A release on the back of the case.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'The Guard' is a little inconsistent on Blu-ray. Given Sony's usual standard of wowing us with almost every Blu-ray they release I was a tad disappointed here. That's not to say that 'The Guard's 1080p presentation looks bad. No, for the most part it looks quite good, however there are few drawbacks about it that bring it down a peg or two from the usual stellar Blu-rays Sony puts out.

First let's get to the complaints. I felt that there was indeed a lot of crushing going on in the darker scenes. Shadows seem to swallow up instead of delineate nicely. They gobble up details instead of accentuating them. At times, without rhyme or reason, the picture will take on a soft, smeary appearance and then shift back to a rather detailed one. Blacks, in some scenes, tend to be a little grayer than one would like them to be. Colors are damp, but rightly so. The somewhat dreary color palette accurately reflects the overcast look of Ireland as a whole.

Closeups feature a lot of detail. Pores and facial hair are easily seen during extreme closeups. However, mid-range photography seems to lose much of that fine detail. That's where the softness of the picture comes in. There are ever-so-slight occasions where banding and aliasing are visible, but if you're not looking hard then you'll miss them altogether. Like I said, I wasn't overly impressed with 'The Guard' on Blu-ray like I am with many other Sony releases, but standing up to the competition this release is still pretty solid.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Closeups feature a lot of detail. Pores and facial hair are easily seen during extreme closeups. However, mid-range photography seems to lose much of that fine detail. That's where the softness of the picture comes in. There are ever-so-slight occasions where banding and aliasing are visible, but if you're not looking hard then you'll miss them altogether. Like I said, I wasn't overly impressed with 'The Guard' on Blu-ray like I am with many other Sony releases, but standing up to the competition this release is still pretty solid.

Action scenes need a little help though. The few scenes of gunplay seemed rather canned and unassuming to me. The gunfire could've been more robust and carried more low-end heft with it. However, with that said, this was a low-budget independent film which premiered at Sundance this year. So, whatever limitations that there are with its sound effects are most likely due to the constrained budget of the film itself.

There isn't much rear play either, but the movie doesn't call for much either. Most of the scenes are intimate one, two, or three person conversations without much ambient sound needed. Although this may not be the most rock'em sock'em soundtrack out there, it does the job it set out to do: produce clean dialogue. Everything else is secondary anyway.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary – Director John Michael McDonagh is joined by Cheadle and Gleeson in a very enjoyable commentary that any fan of the movie should take time out to listen to. Much of what is talked about here are anecdotal stories about the shoot and people involved. It shies away from the technical side of things and sticks mostly to stories and a light-hearted atmosphere. Still, it's always fun when a commentary can include the filmmakers and the stars at the same time.

  • Making of 'The Guard' (HD, 19 min.) – Standard interviews from the cast and crew peppered with decent behind-the-scenes footage.

  • 'The Second Death' (SD, 11 min.) – A short film directed by McDonagh which served as inspiration for 'The Guard.'

  • Outtakes (SD, 3 min.) – Just your standard gag reel of actors laughing at each other, nothing special.

  • Q & A (SD, 18 min.) – McDonagh, Gleeson, and Cheadle sit down for a question and answer session about the movie.

  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 min.) – There are four deleted scenes in all, but none of them have any real meat to them. Nothing that adds to the show as a whole.

  • Extended & Alternate Scenes (SD, 18 min.) – There are 12 of these in all. These have a bit more substance to them. If only for the extended scenes featuring Gleeson talking. I can't get enough of him in this movie so some of these scenes, where it almost seems like he's improvising, are worth watching.

  • Trailer (HD, 2 min.) – The theatrical trailer is included.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided.

Final Thoughts

With anyone else in the lead role, I'm not sure 'The Guard' would have worked nearly as well. Gleeson is just the man for the job. He's got comedic timing down to a science. Yes, the writing is extremely clever, but it all depends on Gleeson's delivery of the material, and he nails it. If you haven't been able to catch this movie yet, be sure you do. It's recommended for sure.

Technical Specs

  • BD-50 Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH

Supplements

  • Commentary with John Michael McDonagh, Don Cheadle, and Brendan Gleeson
  • The Second Death featurette
  • Making of The Guard featurette
  • Outtakes
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Q&A with Cheadle, Gleeson, and McDonagh

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Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$19.99
Amazon
$8.44 (58%)
3rd Party
$8.44
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»