The Guard comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a reasonably good though far from exceptional 1080i High Definition transfer in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. It’s not a bad presentation, it just tends to be quite variable, with some moments truly standing out, whilst others look a little worse than you would expect. At the end of the day, however, the movie itself feels like it warrants this kind of dingy, gritty look for the most part, and you never get distracted by even the more average visual moments. Clarity is good throughout although, again, never exceptional, and never showcasing the kind of fine object detail that you would have hoped for in an ideal world. There’s no edge enhancement and no signs of any excessive DNR tinkering, but we do get a few digital anomalies, including a hint of banding and some unexpected noise during some of the lower-lit sequences which goes above and beyond what you would expect from a suitably grainy filmic look. The colour scheme is oftentimes quite drab and dreary – obviously to reflect the location – but there are some strong and vivid tones within, including deep blues, bright reds and rich greens. Black levels are strong but can let the side down occasionally in the darker sequences, and overall this is a solid presentation, which will certainly more than suffice for this kind of movie, but which is far from the benchmark we expect for modern Blu-ray releases.
Similarly The Guard’s accompanying lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is pretty middle-of-the-road, coming across as another solid but – again – far from exceptional presentation of the movie’s aural elements. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, largely dominating the frontal array for the majority of the proceedings. The effects are mostly of the atmospheric variety, offering up a nice background ambience during several sequences, whether it’s the weather-related noises, vehicular or water-related sounds, or slight barroom chatter, and giving the surrounds something to do for the most part. Excepting the climax, the louder moments – mainly the odd gunshot – are not as satisfying as you may have hoped for, with the bullets never quite penetrating and ricocheting around your living room as much as they should. Still, that final setpiece makes up for it with several of the most immersive effects touches. The score is perfectly suited to the material but takes a backseat to the proceedings and the LFE channel sits it out for the most part too, seldom proving its worth in this release. That said, this is still a perfectly satisfactory, largely satisfying aural accompaniment for this movie and certainly never detracts from the experience even if it seldom truly enhances it.
Despite it being a fairly low-key production, this release still boasts a whole host of extras which cover all the bases: from Commentary to Deleted Scenes and Outtakes; from Behind the Scenes Featurette to Short Film. Fans of the movie should certainly be pleased to see it being given this kind of treatment.
Director’s Commentary with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle expectedly sees the debut director partnered up with the two main stars, who provide a charming and entertaining accompaniment to the movie that is sparkling with the same wit and fun that the movie establishes between them. Offering a more anecdotal approach to the filmmaking project, with plenty of welcome backstories and moments where the contributors drift off-topic, and a little technical detail to round things off. Definitely worth checking out, particularly if you loved the movie.
Behind the Scenes Making-Of runs at almost twenty minutes in length and offers up a nice companion-piece to the commentary, with plenty of shots at the project being filmed, some brief story detailing and even some discussion on what they make of the end (which really isn’t all that hard to figure out). Most of the main cast and crew members are on-board for this piece, offering a welcome input of interview snippets which further make this a worthwhile accompaniment.
Short Film “The Second Death” is the 11 minute short film that kick-started the director’s career and was something of a vague precursor to the main feature. Liam Cunningham and David Wilmot, both from the feature film, star here as well, with Aidan Gillen in support. The plot isn't anything to do with The Guard, per se, and the strange symbolism and almost supernatural occurrences are quite beyond the realms of what his main feature offers. The atmopshere and style, and the accompanying score, however, are all very similar, and there is also one small supporting character who is a very loose sketch of what eventually could have morphed into the lead character from The Guard. A very intriguing one-watch addition, it should be your first port of call after you watch the movie,
Outtakes run at three minutes in length and are warmly funny for the most part, further showing just how much fun the cast and crew had putting this film together.
Deleted and Extended Scenes total 24 minutes of extra footage, offering up a few nice lines, some momentarily good concepts and plenty of participation from all the main players, much of which could have been left in the main feature but was probably removed for streamlining. Well at least we get to watch them here and, honestly, who could complain about seeing more from this unusual bunch of characters? Gleeson's in every single one of these scenes and his great extra lines are well worth your time.
The disc is rounded off by the feature’s original 2-minute Theatrical Trailer.
More than just another generic cop comedy-thriller, this sleeper hit movie stands tall on the shoulders of veteran actor Brendan Gleeson, who simply shines as the unpredictably iconoclastic West Irish cop caught up in a drugs smuggling plot which is way over his head. Flagrantly corrupt, but in a warm, affable way, he defiantly stands apart from both his by-the-books yet innately corrupt colleagues and his surprisingly well-educated but nonetheless totally amoral enemies, and totally befuddles Don Cheadle’s visiting FBI Agent assigned to the case. This is a story that you may have seen a dozen times before, but it’s unlikely you’ve ever seen it done quite like this.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get solid but unexceptional video and audio as well as a hefty selection of welcome extras which are all worth checking out. This is definitely a must-have release for the fans, who should have already ordered it, and newcomers who are interested in something a little different could do worse than take a blind gamble on this little gem. Recommended.
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