The Guard: The Funniest Film Of 2011

Local Hero crossed with In Bruges or Father Ted meets Bad Lieutenant? Either way, get yourself into The Guard.
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Local Hero crossed with In Bruges or Father Ted meets Bad Lieutenant? Either way, get yourself into The Guard.

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There’s a little sub-genre of film that seems to be developing that may best be described as ‘Irish Black Comedy’. Every couple of years the Emerald Isle kicks up a little belter like Intermission or In Bruges and now we’ve got another to join the gang - the funniest film of 2011, The Guard.

Centred around a superb performance by everyone’s favourite Irishman Brendan Gleeson, the film tells the story of a couldn’t-give-a-shit Garda sergeant who takes a break from his life of small town ennui, corruption, drug-taking and whoring to sort out a gang of international drug smugglers. It’s like Father Ted meets Bad Lieutenant.

There’s a bit more to it, but not much and (quite honestly) the intricacies of the plot run second to a series of hilariously foul-mouthed, dead-pan scenes that rightly seem more concerned with seeking laughs through cracking wise than building a cohesive narrative. A few deleted scenes on the DVD help to flesh out some of the underexplored relationships in the film and tidy up a couple of plot points but it’s best not to worry about the deficiencies of the film, just enjoy the highly quotable lines.

It shouldn’t really work but all the way through the script consists of the kind of marvellously-written and delivered bollocks that make the whole enterprise well worth 90 minutes of anyone’s time.

It’s a film that you occasionally feel like you’ve seen before; Don Cheadle turns up as a CIA agent and you think things are going to go a little Local Hero and a couple of times you sense the shadow of Welsh caper Twin Town, but the film manages to steer it’s own course and by the end you know you’ve seen something quite of itself. Worthy of note is the fact that The Guard is written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh, the writer and director of In Bruges. There must have been the taste of Guinness in the water round their house as (considering the pair of them were born and raised in London) they seem to have a way with zingy dialogue rattled out in an Irish accent and definitely know how to get the best out of Brendan Gleeson. Also, music fans will be glad to know that the mariachi/ Morricone soundtrack is provided by Calexico.

The Guard is superb character comedy which rings the laughs from the old staple of dozy-gits-doing-clever-stuff-and-clever-gits-underestimating-the-dozy-gits. It shouldn’t really work but all the way through the script consists of the kind of marvellously-written and delivered bollocks that make the whole enterprise well worth 90 minutes of anyone’s time. It’s a form of comedy that the English occasionally do well over 30 minutes but it seems that you need to get our Gaelic cousins on board if you want to make it work over the length of a film. Or should I say fil-um?

The Guard is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on Jan 3.

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