The Guard - Review
Review by Jack Foley
JOHN Michael McDonagh’s The Guard has frequently been compared to his brother Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges by virtue of the same kind of subversive humour and the presence of leading man Brendan Gleeson.
In truth, it’s not quite as good but it is a lively romp that makes the most of its formidable cast, while heralding the arrival of a second McDonagh to watch.
The film focuses on Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Gleeson), an unconventional policeman in the west of Ireland, who has grown bored of his daily routine and is looking for a way out.
When called upon to investigate a seemingly random murder, he is also required to help visiting FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) mount a large-scale operation against a well-organised drug-smuggling ring.
But while the two initially antagonise each other, Gerry’s inquisitive nature and fearless approach soon puts the pieces of the puzzle together and earns him the respect of his more illustrious colleagues.
The Guard works so well because of the sparkling nature of McDonagh’s fearless script and the quality of the performances.
Like In Bruges, McDonagh’s outspoken screenplay tip-toes the line of acceptability and even occasionally steps over it (self-consciously) but is made enjoyable by the expertise of those uttering his words.
Gleeson’s Gerry may wind everyone up around him and sometimes appear naive, but you gradually come to see a more intelligent side to him that makes him hugely engaging. He also cares in an old-school, old Western kind of way, adopting a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do approach to the task at hand, while coping with a sickly, terminally ill mother (Fionnula Flanagan).
The scenes between Gleeson and Flanagan are especially poignant and lend the film its heart.
But there’s strong support, too, from Cheadle as the ever so slightly self-opinionated Fed, who slowly comes to respect Boyle’s methods and values, while rolling with the verbal punch he continually receives. The two actors clearly enjoyed working with each other and this rubs off on the audience.
Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong also contribute notable support, bringing grit and menace to their villains, and providing the sort of adversaries that Gerry has been waiting for all his life.
Admittedly, the story itself is fairly simple but told from the perspective of Boyle’s roguish sergeant, it feels fresh and frequently funny. Hence, the subversive approach to the genre, coupled with the non-PC attitudes of its leading men, make this a continually surprising delight.
Running time: 96mins
UK Release Date: August 19, 2011
- Read our review
- Brendan Gleeson interview
- John Michael McDonagh interview
- The Guard Photo Gallery
- Watch the trailer