Hey Academy, why not Brendan Gleeson?

Posted by · 6:12 pm · August 17th, 2011

For a series of not-entirely-connected reasons, a little Irish indie called “The Guard” has been on my mind today. For starters, a reader named Stephen asked me on Twitter when it would reach US theaters — only for me to discover that it’s been in limited release there for several weeks already. (UK audiences can see it on Friday.) Then, coincidentally enough, my brief review of the film for Heat magazine hit shelves today; it was already on my mind, however, thanks to a tweet this morning by Telegraph critic Tim Robey:

A proper Brendan Gleeson awards push needs to happen for The Guard. He’s so often the bridesmaid, disturbing image though that may be.

I’m not one to ignore a hat-trick of signs, however tenuous, pointing to a particular film — particularly one I saw over six months ago and could otherwise have stored on the dusty top shelves of my memory. Someone, somewhere, on high clearly wants me to blog about “The Guard” today; more to the point, I do, because I couldn’t agree more with Tim’s order.

This rough-edged, black-hearted and very funny crime comedy, the debut feature of John Michael McDonagh (brother of “In Bruges” writer-director Martin), has many incidental pleasures to offer — see my Berlin review — but it’s Gleeson’s soulful, rangy lead performance as a corrupt small-town police chief that really sticks.

Where many other actors would respond to McDonagh’s quickfire writing with jocular schtick, Gleeson delivers a fully rounded portrait of the loneliness and lack of stimulation that fuels his character’s bad behavior, without skimping on the droll comic timing. His familiar hangdog weariness is given a jolt of venality here that the actor clearly relishes, and his chemistry with the more tightly wound Don Cheadle (as a fish-out-of-water FBI agent) keeps the performance lit.

It’s comparable to, but more expansive than, his beautifully broken BAFTA- and Golden Globe-nominated work in “In Bruges,” and more deserving of Best Actor consideration than just about any performance released to theaters so far this year. That, of course, is a distant hope, given the low profile of the film (though it does come from the Sony Pictures Classics stable), the acquired-taste comic register of the material and Gleeson’s modest character-actor status. (The Globe comedy category, though, is hereby instructed to come through for the actor again.)

In an ideal world, though, he’s exactly the kind of limber, resourceful, hard-working thesp awards bodies would single out more often — as regular and valuable an asset to commercial blockbusters (including the Harry Potter series) as he is to scrappy independent filmmakers — and “The Guard” the kind of roomy vehicle that would get him there. It’s certainly his most generous showcase since his furious breakout turn in 1997’s rather symmetrically titled “The General,” perhaps even a career peak. Whether or not any awards bodies care to take notice, seeing Gleeson get first billing for a change is something of a win in itself.

[Photo: Sony Pictures Classics]

→ 19 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

19 responses so far

  • 1 8-17-2011 at 6:28 pm

    Princess of Peace said...

    I agree with you Guy. I would love to see Gleeson get an Oscar nomination. He has been doing great work for years and needs some recognition.

  • 2 8-17-2011 at 7:40 pm

    Andrew M said...

    I love In Bruges, so I will check this out. Besides Gleeson, do you think the screenplay could get in (again, like In Bruges)?

  • 3 8-17-2011 at 7:41 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    I found this trailer so off-putting, so thanks for this reminder of your earlier praise. I had the same reaction to In Bruges, which got such strong reviews I eventually caught up with it. I didn’t like it, but I do still think about it. Would you say The Guard is as idiosyncratic as that film was? It was the weird tone and structure of Bruges that made me admire it even though I didn’t enjoy it.

  • 4 8-17-2011 at 8:17 pm

    Steve G said...

    Guy, congrats on your gig for Heat magazine. I believe you just injected some class into a publication that sorely lacks it!

    Sadly I think The Guard will largely pass under the awards radar in the US, especially since Sony Pictures Classics has its hands full with Midnight in Paris, Carnage and A Dangerous Method. I’m even worried Michael Shannon’s much showier perf in Take Shelter (also coming through SPC) could get overlooked.

    The Guard is worth seeking out, though, and Gleeson is terrific: droll, yes, but also poignant.

  • 5 8-18-2011 at 1:07 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Andrew M: Not really — it’s not as strong a screenplay, for starters.

    Nick: I remember your dislike of In Bruges, and frankly, I’d be surprised if you like this one significantly more. John Michael McDonagh’s tone isn’t quite as peculiar or as literate as Martin’s — he perhaps goes for broader laughs, though there’s a similar streak of nastiness running through. It may aggravate a Bruges sceptic less, but there’s also a little less to admire — the gangster hijinks are pretty rote stuff, and the whole is less elegantly turned. (I feel bad comparing the brothers’ work, but there are too many common points — Gleeson being one of them, of course — to avoid doing so.) Interested to know what you think, at any rate — and I hope you like Gleeson.

    Steve G: That’s very kind of you — though I should add that Heat picks up a lot of fine film writers, thanks to the keen eye of Charles Gant, their film editor.

    As for SPC, no denying their enviable slate — though I do wonder if, from afar, people are overestimating the awards potential of the Polanski and the Cronenberg. We’ll get some idea at Venice!

  • 6 8-18-2011 at 4:49 am

    m1 said...

    3-I thought I was the only person who thought this. In Bruges was self-satisfied, slow, and meandering, and frankly I never got the love for it, either.

    Gleeson was great in In Bruges and Green Zone, so hopefully he’ll get a nomination one day.

  • 7 8-18-2011 at 5:39 am

    JJ1 said...

    Gleeson, no matter how big or small the role, always adds complexion to whatever movie I watch him in.

    I’d love to see him recognized by Oscar one day. It was nice that he got some big recog. for ‘In Bruges’ in ’08. BAFTA and Globe noms, correct?

  • 8 8-18-2011 at 9:52 am

    Maxim said...

    I really like Gleeson but I think the script is ladden with way too many racist remarks where it I belive they could have gotten away with far less.

  • 9 8-18-2011 at 10:59 am

    Pope said...

    I saw this yesterday and it was wonderful. I’d be very pleased if Gleeson got the nomination. It does feel very similar in style to In Bruges though, and I went into it not knowing the two directors were brothers.

  • 10 8-18-2011 at 9:47 pm

    daveylow said...

    I thought The Guard was a little gem and both Gleeson and Cheadle had great chemistry together. Though when I recommended to friends, no one seemed that interested in seeing it.

  • 11 8-19-2011 at 12:12 pm

    Madison said...

    I hope Brendan Gleeson at least gets a BAFTA nomination and he might be able to land a GG nod. I am just not feeling a lot of buzz towards him or the movie but I can see a surprise BAFTA nomination.

  • 12 8-19-2011 at 12:55 pm

    Fitz said...

    Tis a shame Gleeson didn’t win for ‘In Bruges’ last year, but having him compete against his more well-known costar was to his detriment. Hopefully he will have better luck this year.

  • 13 8-19-2011 at 1:02 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Last year? “In Bruges” was 2008.

  • 14 8-19-2011 at 1:34 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Okay, so he didn’t win at the BAFTAs and Globes ceremonies two years ago. Let’s not pretend we haven’t all squeezed two years into one occasionally.

  • 15 8-19-2011 at 1:46 pm

    Fitz said...

    Sorry. It honestly seemed like last year as I was writing that.

  • 16 8-19-2011 at 4:44 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Well technically it was three years ago, or at least three Oscar seasons ago.

  • 17 8-19-2011 at 5:11 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...


  • 18 8-19-2011 at 5:21 pm

    Speaking English said...


  • 19 11-14-2011 at 8:26 am

    Chrizzzz said...

    He will be nommed and probably win the Globe…and I hope he will get Oscarnommed but just like with for instance,Del Toro in Things we lost in The fire,Gleeson might loose out just due to bad marketing and not enough people having seen the film(Which I hold as one of 2011´s best.)He is always great and never steals the show(Troy,Dark Blue,In Bruges,Gangs of New york,28 days later,Braveheart)…well he stole it here,as much as anyone could.Go Gleeson!!