Cert: 15 Runtime: 93 mins Director: John Michael McDonagh Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong
I’m Irish. Racism is part of my culture
This is one of those random films I really have to explanation why I wanted to watch it,Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a small-town Irish cop with a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humor, a dying mother, a fondness for prostitutes, and absolutely no interest whatsoever in the international cocaine-smuggling ring that has brought straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to his door.If that synopsis makes “The Guard” sound wholly serious, bear in mind that it is completely and totally a comedy. A dark comedy to be sure but a comedy nonetheless. If you’ve ever wondered what “Hot Fuzz” would be like if it was subtle and less over-the-top, “The Guard” fits the bill.
This is writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s first full length film but I would never have guessed it if not for the magic of IMDb. It is a witty, well-written film that makes its tone clear from the first scene. The pacing isn’t exactly what I would call slow but instead calculatedly casual; it knows where it intends to go and it makes its way with balanced determination. This is a film that knows its own identity and doesn’t stray from the dark comedy path more than a time or two. Its humor is smart and lively. Even with the thick accents “The Guard” is filled with exquisite dialogue and understated jokes that brought more laughs than anything from all but the very best big budget comedies this year has brought.
The plot of “The Guard” is simple but refined and that pushes all of the attention onto the characters and the actors who portray them. Cheadle is a solid straight man and as he always does, he makes the absolute most of every scene he is given. As one of the ringleaders of the drug ring, Mark Strong’s character is straight out of a Guy Ritchie film, a role Strong is great at playing. Please Mr. Strong: stick to these films and stay away from popcorn crap like “Green Lantern.” But despite all of the excellent actors around him, “The Guard” is all about Gleeson. His work in 2008’s “In Bruges” (coincidentally directed by McDonagh’s brother Martin) finally brought him the attention he deserves, but Gleeson has always been a favorite of mine, a magnificent actor who never fails to impress no matter how little screen time he is given. Boyle is a without a doubt a curmudgeon (and a slightly racist one at that) but Gleeson makes him exceedingly likable. He is a wild card, the type of guy who does the right thing when you’re absolutely sure he’s going to continue to disgrace himself and Gleeson pulls this off perfectly. Moreover, he once again exhibits the brilliant comedic timing that has made him one of the best and most versatile actors the UK has to offer. I’m not saying it’s his best performance but rather another in a long string of quality portrayals that illustrate just how undervalued this guy really is.
Fun, intelligent, and genuinely hilarious, “The Guard” is an excellent departure from my typical fare this time of year. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I really like summer blockbusters. I love them, in fact. But when a movie like “The Guard” comes along in the midst of the “Conan the Barbarians” of the world, it serves as an incredibly refreshing reminder of what we have to hope for in the coming months. 7.5/10