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Blu-ray: THE GUARD (2011)

This dark comedy isn't the prettiest looking release, but Sony does bring it to Blu-ray in a quality MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer. Dimensionality is the biggest issue with the image often looking soft. This then lowers the depth of field. Colors are natural and balanced well. When more vibrant colors pop up in the palette they do indeed pop. Blacks might not be inky throughout, but they aren't too murky. Digital issues aren't problematic, but crush is its biggest issue. Of course night scenes in low lighting suffer the worst. Some noise and banding occur but nothing too awful. Most of the issues with the picture quality presumably stem back to the source, which was a low-budget indie shot on Super 35. The worst thing you could say about the image would be that it is inconsistent. Some darker scenes can be murky and feature pixelization, but daylight scenes can be crisp and deep.

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This dark comedy isn't the prettiest looking release, but Sony does bring it to Blu-ray in a quality MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer. Dimensionality is the biggest issue with the image often looking soft. This then lowers the depth of field. Colors are natural and balanced well. When more vibrant colors pop up in the palette they do indeed pop. Blacks might not be inky throughout, but they aren't too murky. Digital issues aren't problematic, but crush is its biggest issue. Of course night scenes in low lighting suffer the worst. Some noise and banding occur but nothing too awful. Most of the issues with the picture quality presumably stem back to the source, which was a low-budget indie shot on Super 35. The worst thing you could say about the image would be that it is inconsistent. Some darker scenes can be murky and feature pixelization, but daylight scenes can be crisp and deep.

Much like its picture, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is the same – inconsistent. The ambience is subtle, but puts the viewer into the settings. Seaside scenes feature wind, ocean and bird sounds across the soundscape. The mix is well done, but nothing is dynamic. The gunfight at the end is sonically solid even if it's not as robust as others you might have heard in big budget shoot outs. That said directionality during the gunfight is handled precisely. Dialogue importantly with the Irish accents is clear, but a little low at times, but nothing too distracting.

The audio commentary features director John Michael McDonagh and stars Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson. The jokey threesome gives a heavily antidotal account of the production. It's certainly a dry wit affair and never gets pretentious. You get less insight into the artistic approach to the film, but it's still fun. The "Q&A with Actors Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson and Director John Michael McDonagh" is much like the commentary in tone and content, but adds new information to the mix.

"The Making of The Guard" is a brief, but solid, behind-the-scenes doc, which gets the thoughts of the filmmakers and cast on the process and the characters. The candid moments of the cast and crew joking around are a joy. They also get into their thoughts on the open-ended conclusion.

The disc also includes McDonagh's short film THE SECOND DEATH, which is described as the template for THE GUARD, but I felt the tone was radically different. There are also a host of deleted and alternative scenes. None really adds anything, because most of them are just different versions of what is in the film. One scene that stood out though was between Boyle and Gabriela that makes their flirty relationship more obvious.

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Rick DeMott
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