The Guard

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Notable Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong

Rating: R

Review:  My interest in The Guard was immediately sparked not only by the trailer, but the parties involved. Go back to 2008, and In Bruges secretly became one of my favorite films of the year.  It flew under the radar for most mainstream viewers, made obvious when I went to buy the DVD.  Even though there was shelf after shelf filled with the movie behind the cashier, she still looked at me like I had 3 heads when I had to re-say the title about 5 times.  Ignorant Americans. But the movie, plain and simple, was hilariously inappropriate at times, well acted, had a deeply rooted story, and was flat-out impressive filmmaking.  So how does that have anything to do with The Guard?  In Bruges was written/directed by Martin McDonagh and starred Brendan Gleeson along with Colin Farrell.  The Guard is written/directed by Martin’s brother John McDonagh, stars Brendan Gleeson (this time with Don Cheadle to support), and from the trailer I could feel the exact same tone of film.  Oh boy I was right. The brothers McDonagh write some of the best dialogue in film today, and have a true understanding on how to keep an audience entertained in any situation.  This is one hell of a sibling rivalry.

Sergent Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is a very unique Garda (Guard) member in a small Irish town.  When he isn’t bothered by murders and criminals, he’s indulging in drinking, prostitutes, and his love for swimming.  But when the discovery of an international coke ring brings FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle) to town, Boyle is forced to drop his nonchalant and crass attitude and do some real police work.  But Boyle does things his way, and as sarcastic as always, Boyle works with Everett to try and bust the nasty drug dealers taking refuge in his town.  An investigation filled with blackmail, bribery, comedy, and butting heads; this is the case of Gerry Boyle’s life.  The only problem is, does Boyle care enough to actually see the case to the end?

Gleeson works so well with both Cheadle and Farrell, it’s hard to pick which relationship was better…

I’m happy to say that John McDonagh followed soundly in his brother Martin’s footsteps, keeping both tone and atmosphere almost identical, and he does it in his directorial debut none the less.  The way he wrote the dialogue mixes blissful ignorance and crass remarks together in an entertainingly befuddled way, making you wonder if Gleeson’s character is, to quote Cheadle, “that magnificently dumb, or that magnificently smart.” (He had a different phrase for magnificent though)  Gleeson of course does a bang up job as Gerry Boyle, this time getting to be the comic relief (Farrell had that job during In Bruge, making Gleeson the straight character).  The way his insults and slurs would roll of the tongue in that thick Irish brogue flowed so naturally, if you could understand it that is.  But Gleeson really understood the character and knew what to emphasize.  Gerry Boyle isn’t a hateful racist (although as he proclaims, “I’m Irish, racism is in my blood!”), but instead a man who deals with life on his own terms.  Not too serious, Boyle makes light of any situation to make it manageable.  Boyle is faced with unforeseen circumstances and mountains of investigative work to do, yet he skips the first day because it’s his day off, forcing Cheadle to work alone.  The typical buddy cop drama would get right to the action once the case picked up.  Instead, Boyle makes it wait a day. He would make off the cuff comments that would extremely offend others, but give that slick smile afterwords that showed the comment was meant to do nothing but push buttons, in an almost playful manner.  Then you’d witness moments of thoughtful clarity, like when he visits his mother for example, that show the good man he really is, and brings a whole other depth to his character.  Gleeson’s performance was all over the place, bringing out some deep heartfelt moments along with his humor by stupidity. Boyle was well written, well planned, and Gleeson brought a ton of personality to him that mimicked the exact emotions needed.  Not to overshadow Cheadle or Mark Strong for that matter, as they were the bit parts for Gleeson to play off of, but Brendan is such an amazing actor that doesn’t get his share of praise.  He may not be the chiseled stereotypical Hollywood star we’ve come to adore, but his talents are undeniable.

The Guard also delightfully mocks Americans and our stereotypes, as Gleeson makes jokes about Cheadle only being good at killing the innocent or being incompetent at his job.  I always get a kick out of foreign films this way, as the writer is obviously throwing his bias in the mix.  Martin of course portrayed Americans as fat, snobbish tourists for In Bruge, and now our police force a bunch of corrupt woman and children killing thugs thanks to John.  But I like the jabs and I like the jokes because it enlightens our home audience to what other cultures think of ours.  We can only see from the inside, and sometimes it’s a revelation to get a reaction from the outside.

Now way around it, this is my In Bruge of 2011.  Ignore the similarities and coincidences, because John couldn’t be farther from just copying his brother and riding the McDonagh name.  The Guard is hands down up there with most entertaining, witty, intelligent, hilarious, and rewarding films of the year, as you can’t help but enjoy every minute of it. Gleeson is like a machine gun spitting out round after round of little humorous bullets every time his mouth opens.  And when he’s not talking, you’re intrigued by his mannerisms and expressions that are equally as entertaining.  But then we go farther, and you can really hit the soul of Sergent Gerry Boyle; something most characters lack.  Boyle was a real person to me; a living, breathing, organism.  Not Brendan Gleeson dressed up as a cop.  There’s so much to love about John McDonagh’s first effort, and I whole heartedly encourage doing whatever you can to catch this film…anything.

Final Rating: 9 hilariously racist Irishmen out of 10

Benefits of the job…


About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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1 Response to The Guard

  1. Pingback: 2011: Recap of the Good, the Bad, and Everything Else | Cinema Scrutiny

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