Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham
Directed by: John Michael McDonagh (debut)
Written by: John Michael McDonagh (Ned Kelly)
If the McDonagh brothers’ portrayal of the Irish were to be believed, one might think that they are a foul-mouthed, morally-corrupt and politically-incorrect population. In fact, as Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is being chastised for racially insensitive comments during a briefing, he matter-of-factly explains that racism is part of the Irish culture. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker John Michael McDonagh, the brother of Martin McDonagh (director of the outstanding and widely- acclaimed 2008 dark comedy “InBruges”) “The Guard” has “Irish culture” on full display. While not for the easily offended, the film is a satisfying, and often quite funny, dark twist on a buddy-cop comedy.
During the film’s opening scene, Sergeant Boyle’s morals quickly come into question as he nabs and drops acid from a dead car crash victim. As uptight FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) comes into the small Irish town to investigate a massive drug smuggling ring, Boyle, using his own unique form of communication, links it with a recent murder. Boyle and Everett then form an unlikely alliance to try to bring down the ring and clean up the corruption the criminals leave in their path.
Brendan Gleeson is nothing short of brilliant in a role that is equal parts over the top and emotionally grounded. With a wickedly dry and sometimes almost mean- spirited sense of humor, most of the laughs in the film come at the hands of Gleeson. After seeing him as the “normal” member of the duo in “In Bruges,” it is a very welcomed change of pace to witness Gleeson let loose and show off his comedic abilities.
Don Cheadle is good, but ultimately overshadowed in his role as agent Everett. Most of his screen time is spent in disbelief at the things that are coming out of Sergeant Boyle’s mouth or struggling to communicate with the disrespectful Irish community. It should be noted that because most of the cast is Irish, the dialect is often muddy and hard to understand, so pay close attention to the dialogue.
“The Guard” will unquestionably bring comparisons to “In Bruges,” mostly because of the relation of its creators and its sharing of a principal cast member. While there are similar elements such as the fish-out-of-water story or the crass and sarcastic nature of its characters, “The Guard” is much less black and lighter in tone than its counterpart.
Although some quick edits and worn-out scenes in the script make “The Guard” feel unpolished and rough around the edges, it is a film that has its own unique voice – even if it is a vulgar and sometimes unintelligible one.