I wanted to love this film. Anyone who knows me, knows I have a huge place in my heart for foreign cinema and I particularly love Brendan Gleeson‘s work (In Bruges, 28 Days Later, Harry Potter) However, I honestly feel somebody has to come out and say it: The Guard is a waste of talent! I do not understand why reviewers, including the The Times, praise this work. I am taking this opportunity to call out those reviewers to tell them they missed the mark and didn’t do their job. The only reason I can discern for the wave of positive reviews is sympathy for the oft-under-appreciated talent of Gleeson and Don Cheedle. Their love for their characters and craft is the only redeeming value in a film fraught with amateur shortcomings. I hope their contributions are recognized and channeled into a script more worthy of their skills.
The blueprints made this film a disaster. It could’ve been good. It really had a great nucleus of an idea: a country officer with a darkside who wraps himself in unabashed whit motivated by a deep commitment to the ideals of the Old West and love for an ailing mother. If the whole film were written from his perspective, this review would be entirely different. We would have elements of character development, mystery, and suspense. We would only see what the guard sees when he sees it. Unfortunately, the script exposes all the cards faceup on the table, all the outcomes are known to the audience well in advance. Rather than relying on the skills of the guard (Boyle) to save the day, the plot relies on convenient circumstances that mitigate any opportunity for drama.
One of the perfect examples is the scene where the sociopath intends on murdering Boyle. We were already shown that he has been told to murder Boyle. When Boyle is searching his home, the camera over the shoulder limits our view to Boyle’s view. This would normally instill suspense, but we know the sociopath has an agenda to kill, therefore we know he is around the corner. When Boyle is forced to sit at gunpoint, we have no reason to worry because, conveniently earlier in the day, Boyle was given a small Derringer to hide in the crotch of his pants during a sequence about the IRA that otherwise had no bearing on the plot.
The villains could have been something great, but instead, they’re idiots who are lucky. In such a small area, why would villians show themselves publicly, especially with $500M on the line? $500M could buy a lot of cheap labor to do your dirty work. In the first half-hour of the film, the rookie cop (McBride) happens to pull over a car containing our three evil masterminds. The reason for pulling over the car is never given. He has the drop on the bad guys. The film could have ended right there, but instead, the writer had to inexplicably cause McBride to lose control of his situation and turn his back on obvious danger costing three bullets in the back. This was so implausible, it was insulting. Later, the writer explains that McBride was homosexual, and maybe it was the fact the villains knew his secret that caused him to lose control. Again, if villians are this lucky, where’s the tension? Of all the cops in all of Ireland, they happen to know that the one about to end their agenda is afraid of coming out of the closet? This scene completely negated the purpose of McBride altogether. That character and all his distractions should have hit the floor with a rewrite.
The scene in the American diner where Boyle is blackmailed is another slap to the audience’s intelligence. 1) We saw this coming. No public figure would let themselves be photographed by a prostitute (maybe the public figure would take the photo, but not vice-versa) 2) All the police/FBI had to do was put out headshots of these criminals and everyone on the streets would be pointing fingers. There is no way these guys could have acted the way they did if an alert was put out on them.
Last example. Early in the film, Boyle is investigating a murder. The bad guys have left several red-herrings to throw him off the trail. Boyle even begins to leave the path until, conveniently, the evil mastermind calls Boyle to give him a false tip, that ends up pointing Boyle to a security camera in a pub with a recording proving that the criminal mastermind was involved in the murder. See what I’m talking about?
When you create characters with strong spines and throw them in a particular situation, they will act accordingly and propel the movie through the plot. Their discovery is our discovery. Their tension is our tension. In this case, a weak script had to pull the characters through the plot by using dumb luck that was only intended to explain to the audience how such convenient events happened to move the characters from Point A to Point B. I sincerely hope the next film to utilize Gleeson has a script worthy of his talent.