The Guards TV movie review

by Karl McGowan

I recently got to see the film adaptation of Ken Bruen’s The Guards, shown on the Irish channel TV3, it’s the pilot of a proposed series of TV movies based on the Jack Taylor series of novels. I have to admit to having a bit of trepidation about how the film was going to turn out, I’ve been reading Ken Bruen for years and I have been disappointed by screen adaptations in the past eg John Hanna as Inspector Rebus and the Jeff Bridges version of Matt Scudder in Eight Million Ways To Die. I needn’t have worried though, ‘Jack Taylor’ was a gripping crime thriller and I hope the pilot gets taken up as I’d love to see more being made.

The plot, for those who have read the original book, gets fairly liberally changed around and tightened up but I don’t personally think this is a bad thing. For example, there’s more emphasis on the procedure of the investigation and the fate of the missing girls in the film than there was in the novel, there’s also details of Sutton’s past revealed that play an important part of the story. By the way, some of my favourite parts of the original novel where sections where “the crime to be solved” aspect was put aside in favour of character study, ( read the chapter ‘Books And All Points West’ and see if you don’t agree ) but in a two hour TV crime drama, a suspenseful and nicely paced storyline is whats needed.

Of course plot and pacing mean nothing if the characterization of Jack Taylor isn’t got right. Iain Glen nails the part, he captures the intelligence, the pain, the humanity, the wry sense of humour that make up character of Jack Taylor. Iain may not completely fit my mind’s eye picture of Taylor but he captures the soul of the character and brings it to life. Iain also provides the voice over throughout the film, think Harrison Ford in Bladerunner, this may sound strange but it works, it brings Ken Bruens very sparse style of prose directly into the film.

The film doesn’t flinch from showing Jack’s drinking, indeed I would have been mortally disappointed if it had, but they don’t let the booze take over the story either, (Jack’s stint in the drying out clinic has been cut) It also helps that Iain Glen looks permanently hungover throughout.

Overall the verdict is excellent and hopefully there will be more made in the series. My only real gripe is the ending, Bruen’s books have always had killer endings, slap in the face endings, endings that seem to almost physically stay with you for a few minutes after you’ve closed the cover and put the book down. In the book Jack deliberately drowns Suttion in the sea and then walks away, the wind loud in his ears. There’s a different finale to the TV version, I won’t spoil it for you but suffice to say it’s not as hard boiled as the original. But I wouldn’t allow that one flaw to take away from what was, overall, a great production.

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