The Guard * * * *
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.