Friday, April 1, 2022

Film Club Featurette: The Guard (2011)

Join us Saturday 2 April at 6:31pm for John Michael McDonagh's rollicking small-budget crime thriller set in the western approaches of Ireland, *The Guard*, starring Brendan Gleason and Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong. 

In the sleepy western Irish district of Connemara, an apparent occult-based murder takes on new significance when local law enforcement connects the victim to an alleged ring of drug smugglers. Gleason plays a comfortably corrupt and relativistic cop who gets paired against his will with the FBI hotshot (Cheadle) sent to try to prevent the landing of a major shipment of cocaine. Together they will have to learn to work with each other through a series of unintentionally arched and culturally tone-deaf insults -- which incidentally run both ways -- or else perhaps kill each other in the process of doing such a lousy job of trying. 

That criminal mayhem follows is no surprise, but the subtle brilliance of McDonagh's film is the extent to which the crime-based plot-line is actually the feint -- in particular for addressing sneaky-big and important considerations of race, and ethics, and duty, and back around to race. With typical applomb Gleason pulls a wonderfully de-saturated you-ain't-from-around-here-are-you, grinning slyly through every act of would-be dismissal from pocketing pharmaceutical evidence, to deploying police resources for a date with a pair of out-of-town prostitutes. All with Cheadle predictably and delightfully declining to budge either an inch or a millimetre either one in his by-the-book compulsion to nab the bad guys at the beach. 

The end result is a great little bonbon of intrigue, simmering but ultimately informative tension, and evolving sensibilities for all concerned, including us. Patton Oswalt once captured a similar vibe when he cautioned that we might be wise to fear the man who can say "hetero-normative biological imperative" *more* than we fear the guy who thinks that "two f_ggots oughta be allowed to get married," and if you can see the wisdom -- and the instructive entertainment value -- in the sentiment, then you will enjoy every frame of this film. It's a small and lesser-known picture but it punches way, way, WAY above its weight. 

I hope everyone will plan to join us Saturday, 2 April, at 6:31pm, for this remarkably scrappy and improbably memorable little movie. I said about a recent offering, "They can't all be Battleship Potemkin after all," but this is the one that will make you glad that this is true. 

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