Guard, The: John Michael McDonagh’s Western (Ireland)

“The Guard” is a Western. The Wild West, in this case, being the West of Ireland, where an isolated frontier town has for its lawman an eccentric individual with a dying mother, a fondness for prostitutes, and a heightened sense of the absurd.

Our review:

Sgt. Gerry Boyle takes nothing and no one seriously, but when a fellow police officer disappears and the small town Boyle patrols becomes an important location in the greater scheme of things, he is forced to at least feign interest when dealing with the humorless FBI agent assigned to the case.

So what do we have here? We have an original lead character with a jaundiced, melancholic outlook. We have three unpredictable villains. We have a bewildered sidekick who has no idea what the hell is going on. We have action. And we have a strange, unusual location: Connemara, whose landscape lends itself to a kind of epic grandeur.

All in all, we have the ingredients for a visually-stylized, poetic, widescreen film, with a mythic resonance and a darkly comic sense of humor, in the classical tradition of John Ford and Preston Sturges.

The exciting and original films produced in US cinema in the Seventies are a template that was followed, movies (whether dramas, comedies or thrillers) that had a melancholy undertow to them, an evanescent quality that I sought to capture throughout.

Coupled with the kind of black comedy that is determinedly reliant on the idiosyncratic and the unexpected, and a defiantly stylized production and costume design, “The Guard” arrives out of left-field in relation to UK and Irish filmmaking, and is a million miles away from recent downbeat trends.