FILM: Jack Taylor - The Guards

Certificate: 15
Running Time: 100 mins
Director: Stuart Orme
Starring: Iain Glen, Frank O’Sullivan, Ralph Brown
Genre: Noir, Crime, Thriller
Country: IRE

Ireland is in the midst of a semi-renaissance when it comes to cinema/television.  With no small thanks to the success of location based shooting for Game of Thrones and the near global success of Norn Iron scripted and made thriller The Fall, there’s more Noir to Ireland than simply Guinness.
I wrote this Game of Thrones erotic fiction.  Can I ask your opinion?
I have to confess more than one alterior motive for sitting down to the Tom Collins scripted adaptation of the Ken Bruen novel.  I’m a big fan of Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) and having recently delivered a Noir-Comedy TV commission to NI Screen I wanted to check out, not just the opposition, but also the talent on display.  Geographically, Galway is the quintessential Noir backdrop.  It resides on the coast.  It is vulnerable to the elements.  Historically vulnerable to invasion and in being vulnerable its people have had to harden their faces (against the wind and rain) and their core (from everything else).  That’s not to say they’re not fun loving people, not at all but Galway has that ever-so-slightly dystopic feel to it.  A pessimistic fatalism that’s a requirement for Noir and all its sub-genres.

Recently sacked from his job with the Garda, Jack Taylor (Glen) is busy pickling his liver at the local bar when a tall, and ever so slightly, mysterious, brunette enters and attempts to hire him to do some private detective work.  With the bodies of young women washing ashore in the evenings –six and counting, Galway at night is far from the safest place on God’s green one.  Accepting the job, Taylor begins sniffing around a relatively innocuous missing person case and in doing so stumbles over more than one cop can handle.

Iain Glen is brilliant as the down on his luck, weather-worn, whiskey-soaked gumshoe.  I had secretly wanted him to step into the shoes of my own P.D. creation so was both excited and saddened at how wonderful a job he does portraying Taylor.  He is both a strong and a weak man.  A fighter and a flyer.  A hero and (to a much lesser extent) a villain as he colours inside and outside of the lines when it comes to legality but never in ways that could be deemed self-serving.  Yes, between Ken Bruen’s novels and Tom Collins’ script there is a wealth of character for Glen to draw from but he does the work.  He is the spirit of Sam Spade, the personification of Philip Marlowe, a genuine gumshoe and one that raises the standard of the production.  Frank O’Sullivan is entertaining as the Police chief who is paddling around a little out of his depth and unaware of the sharks he is swimming with and Ralph Brown (as Taylor’s retired Paratrooper friend) is sharp, unlikable and yet unlikable but extremely watchable.
Actually, it was that feckin' Ga-Ga-Ga-Galway song that drove me to drink.

Some of the dialogue in Jack Taylor: The Guards is smooth as silk.  Dialogue is vital in Noir.  Classic Noir is fast-talking, catchy, zingy, by definition –unrealistic because of how sharp and clever (seemingly) ever word is.  It’s a must for any aspiring Noir writer.  It’s an element that I always enjoyed and Collins’ script has ten tons of it.

The problems arise when you begin to assess, expect and predict the codes, conventions and arcs that are associated with Noir as a genre.  Collins’ script is faithful to the source material.  A little too faithful.  As a book, Bruen can get away by lapsing into genre cliches if something within the style of writing breaks that expectation up into little renovated chunks.  This linguistic alteration can’t be present in cinema and as such it’s the faithfulness of the adaptation that dooms the film.  Fans of Noir will recognize the signs.  They are large, flashing signs that leave you in no illusion as to what is happening, where the film is going and when you’ll get there.  It took five minutes to draw a conclusion and ninety-five more of them to be proved right.  It’s unfortunate as there are so many other aspects of the film that are really worth watching but there is a definite tiredness in how the story plods along that can only dishearten you.


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