The Guard * * * *

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Director: Jonathan Michael McDonagh.
Screenplay: Jonathan Michael McDonagh.
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, David Wilmot, Fionnula Flanagan, Rory Keenan, Declan Mannlen, Laurence Kinlan, Katarina Cas, Gary Lydon.

There’s something that seems to run through the family of the McDonagh’s; Martin made an impressive debut with the lively, comedy crime drama “In Bruges” in 2008. Now his sibling Jonathan does the same with this. Combining genres can so easily go wrong but both the McDonagh’s seem to be rather good at it.

In Galway, the west coast of Ireland a seemingly random murder occurs. Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) investigates and soon believes it to be part of a drug-smuggling ring. The case becomes so important that the FBI get involved and send over agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to mount a large scale operation in bringing the drug ring down. The two law enforcers don’t exactly see eye-to-eye and have completely different approaches to their professions but manage to find common ground in working together.

As we are introduced to the character of Sgt. Gerry Boyle, he’s just come across a crime scene. He searches through the pockets of a deceased young man and helps himself to a tab of LSD. Within minutes this towering character and his unconventional methods are established. It takes a good actor to pull this off and Gleeson is more than up to the task. It’s his solid performance that’s at the centre of this off-beat and cynical comedy. Gleeson has become ubiquitous of late, appearing in film’s internationally and having already worked with the likes of Steven Spielberg (“A.I. Artificial Intelligence“) and Martin Scorsese (“Gangs Of New York“). He has worked with these directors for good reason, as he can seemingly turn his hand to any role. He’s not alone here though, fine support is delivered by the always reliable Don Cheadle, who’s not afraid to take a step back and allow Gleeson to shine and as the three dangerous, drug-running killers, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot and Mark Strong are given small but memorable roles. It’s fun to listen to them discuss philosophy before cold-bloodedly despatching of innocent people. It’s the balance of danger and humour that keeps director McDonagh’s film fresh and able to play with the usual genre conventions. The laughs are genuine and never forced and the sharp Irish humour that courses through it is hilarious. Toward the end, it threatens to succumb to cliche but still has enough up it’s sleeve to leave you contented.

The mismatched buddy-cop movie has been done many times before but this still manages to find some mileage in it. That’s thanks to it’s balanced approach and contemptuous brand of humour.

Mark Walker

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21 Responses to “The Guard * * * *”

  1. I really enjoyed this one. I hated In Bruges, though.

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  2. In Bruges was good but not as good as some of its fans would leave one to believe. I’m not sure I’ve heard of this one but I’ll check it out. Excellent as always

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  3. Chris Walker Says:

    One of the best comedies I have seen in a long time…

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  4. I saw this in a double bill with In Bruges at the Cameo in Edinburgh last summer. That was one sweary Sunday! I really enjoyed The Guard. It was actually my number 1 new flick of 2011.

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    • #1 of 2011? That’s high praise indeed Ryan. I thought 2011 delivered some great film’s and this was definitely one of them. Still can’t see past “Drive” though.

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  5. Can’t believe I still haven’t seen this. I like Brendan Gleeson and the pairing of him and Don Cheadle sounds so bizarre, in a good way :) Nice review Mark, I’ll try to see this soon!

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  6. I liked In Bruges a lot but this was brilliant. Gleason is, once again, brilliant! In Bruges and The Guard make a great double bill. Which one is better? Bruges edges it for me.

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    • I like them both and Gleeson is a superb actor but for me The Guard shades it. I actually rated In Bruges with ***1/2. I’d probably need to see it again though.

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  7. I was thinking about watching movie within the next couple of days. I hope I like it as much as you did.

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  8. loved in bruges, if this is better then i should be giving this a look.

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    • Again, it will come down to taste man. I liked In Bruges but it did have flaws for me. I gave it ***1/2 stars but The Guard was a little more solid I thought. There’s not much between them but if you are a fan of In Bruges, you should get plenty enjoyment from this.

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  9. Nice review. Movie seems interesting. You know, I actually thought this was the same McDonagh from In Bruges, so thanks for clearing that up.

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  10. Filmfella Lozz Says:

    Awesome review, dude. I thoroughly enjoyed The Guard and completely agree with you. Great minds, eh?!

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