Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“So I thought we might start by canvasing the neighborhood,” says FBI special agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson). “Sorry. You lost me at ‘we,” replies the sergeant in the dark crime comedy The Guard. A maverick Irish cop in a small town in County Galway, Boyle has his own moral code, a confrontational personality and a subversive sense of humor. He has his own ideas about what true justice is and just what is important in his life.
When a rookie police officer goes missing and the town becomes the key focus of a large investigation of drug trafficking by the FBI, Boyle is forced to work with straight-laced, no sense of humor Special Agent Wendell Everett on the case. Almost instantly, the two lawmen clash. Everett looks down on Sergeant Boyle, seeing him as a low-level local flippant cop. Boyle recognizes Everett for what he is, an uptight by-the-book policeman who doesn’t have the first clue of how the real world works. He takes pleasure in mocking and embarrassing the FBI agent whenever he gets the chance.
However, when events and circumstances keep occurring forcing Boyle to take a more serious attitude in the case, he quickly realizes that the only person he can trust is Everett. So the stage is set for the two unlikely partners to work together to bring the drug kings down.
The Guard is a sharply written, original, edgy crime comedy that has many laugh-out-loud moments and stellar performances. Brendan Gleeson gives a stand-out performance as the crass, unorthodox yet highly effective policeman who’s used to handling the town’s problems his own way. It’s one of the funniest performances on film this year. Don Cheadle is pitch perfect as Special Agent Everett, a man who is completely out of his element and desperately needs the help of Boyle if he hopes to catch the drug dealers. The scenes with him trying to ask the residents of the little Irish town questions are hilarious. (He’s unaware some of them only speak the old Irish language, Gaelic). And it’s the great chemistry between Gleeson and Cheadle and the wonderful crisp dialogue, written by John Michael McDonagh, that are the true highlights of the film.
Mark Strong and Liam Cunningham are effective and very funny as the two main drug bosses who see themselves as businessmen who happen to use guns instead of pens to complete their transactions. The only flaw with the film is in the pacing and mood of the first 15 minutes after the opening scene where Boyle is interrogating a possible suspect of a murder with the aid of his rookie partner. The scene has a comedic, uneasy, forced feel to it and doesn’t ring true.
In a year of unoriginal, unfunny, dumb, and insulting so-called comedies The Guard is a refreshing, dark, laugh-filled enjoyable film that should not be missed.
The Guard hit theaters on August 5, 2011 and is rated R for pervasive language, violence drug material and some sexual content.