Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
Are you looking for more Brendan Gleeson in your life? Of course you are, what a silly question. Would you like a dash of Don Cheadle thrown in as well? Duh, what am I thinking?
To scratch those particular itches, one needs look no further than The Guard. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh and now playing in select theaters, this off-beat and irreverent comedy is sure to be unlike any film you see the rest of this year.
Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a loud mouth, politically incorrect, escort loving, bowling ball of a police officer in a less than bustling Irish town. His little piece of paradise is thrown for a loop, however, when drug traffickers decide to close a major deal in the area. Their presence bring out Wendell Everett (Cheadle), a well respected FBI agent who has surely never had to work with a member of law enforcement quite like Boyle. Together, they take on the criminals and learn to see past their differences along the way.
Gleeson delivers an excellent performance, shading every line of dialogue with a range of emotions. The subplot between him and his mother (Fionnula Flanagan) is both touching and comedic, giving the audience an glimpse of how Sergeant Boyle became who he is. And while Cheadle is far more of a supporting character than a true co-lead, the opportunities he and Gleeson have to verbally spar illuminate his character subtly and efficiently.
At its core, The Guard is a buddy cop film but done at the highest level. There’s no pandering to the lowest common denominator here, Boyle and Everett both speak their minds and touch a few nerves. But if you don’t mind some straight talk and impolite racial/cultural humor, this is the funniest film of the year by a mile. Not to be outdone by the leading actors are the drug traffickers themselves: Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, and Mark Strong. Each of them brings something different to their villainous dynamic and through more great dark humor, keep the laughs coming.
What holds everything together and elevates this from your average genre film is a supremely written script. McDonagh remembered not only to write funny lines but to develop the characters along the way. It’s an all too common mistake these days and can mean a world of difference. While this production may be too small to gain traction amongst the sea of Hollywood fare, don’t be too surprised to see this as a nominee on the Best Original Screenplay list of the San Diego Film Critics Society come the end of the year (if I have anything to say about it).
Any fan of independent films should make sure to catch The Guard before it disappears. It’s far and away a more entertaining experience than 95% of its cinematic brethren this year and deserves to be noticed and appreciated by as many people as possible.
The Guard hits theaters on August 5, 2011 and is rated: R for pervasive language, some violence, drug material and sexual content.