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Sundance 2011: The Guard

January 23, 2011

Keeping It Reel is proud to bring you two firsts: exclusive coverage from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and a guest writer. Catina Martinez-Hadley lives in Ogden, Utah, where each year she makes an effort to attend the satellite screenings the festival holds in her town. It is with great pleasure that I step aside and allow my friend to share with us her festival experiences….


The Guard 

written by: John Martin McDonagh

produced by: Chris Clark, Floria Fernendez Marengo, Ed Guiney & Andrew Love 

directed by: John Martin McDonagh

It was a mere three years ago when scoring tickets to the local venue of Sundance was as easy as lining up in front of the box office at least 30 minutes before show time.  Over the years, Ogden’s fierce local pride has caught Sundance fever, making tickets more desirable and the process for getting them more encumbered.  This year we braved the early morning Utah cold and committed our support by buying as many tickets we were allowed, hoping to share the Sundance experience with new and old friends.    

Sundance Ogden kicked off its 2011 season with “The Guard”, starring Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter’s Mad Eye Moody) and Don Cheadle (who also serves as executive producer), as an unlikely crime fighting duo, who team up to bust a drug trafficking ring in the sleepy little hamlet of Galway, Ireland.  It took a full on 20-30 minutes to acclimate my ear to the heavy Irish brogue, but I was easily charmed and taken in by Brendan’s portrayal of an old school cop, who fights crimes on his terms, which are not always orthodox.  The film opens with an intense car race with a tragic ending.  Gleeson kicks off his investigation of the tragedy by going through the pockets of one of the deceased and dropping a hit of acid he finds and declaring it a “Bootiful effing day!”

The international nature of the drug trafficking and a murder investigation brings Cheadle, an FBI agent to Ireland. He plays an irascible, no-nonsense, by-the-book agent who is assigned to work with the foul-mouthed curmudgeon, Gleeson. Through witty handling of racism and American arrogance, we are given the pleasure of watching these two personalities meld. Forming an odd-ball partnership, they investigate a drug ring that may have tendrils into the top most tier of the Galway police department.

As we watch the investigation unfold we also are allowed glimpses into Gleeson’s character’s life.  He is alone, with a dying mother, played by the wonderful Fionnula Flanagan (fans of “Lost” will appreciate this).  Her appearances are brief and limited but very touching, helping you to you see beneath Gleeson’s jaded exterior. His interaction and tenderness with other characters in the film are symbolic of what he might have had, had he chosen a different path.   

Despite the film’s dark undertones, it was incredibly funny and beautifully acted by both Gleeson and Cheadle. “The Guard” is up for a Sundance Audience Favorite Award with a 1-4 star rating system.  The film was a solid 3.5, but I would have gladly given in a 4, had I been able to understand the entire dialog.  

McDonagh, who both wrote and directed the film did a Q&A with the audience after the showing, staying for about 30 minutes to answer questions. Without mentioning any spoilers, he mentioned how hard it was to find two recognizable actors to make the film viable and that cost 6 million for him to make. It was a fantastic film to kick off Sundance and I can’t wait to share reviews with you on the four next films I have tickets for. 


rating: ***1/2


David Wilmot, Liam Cunningham & Mark Strong in “The Guard”




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