First and foremost let’s get the precedential critic comparisons between In Bruges and the reference that first time director John Michael Mc Donagh is the brother of Martin that guy what directed that film. Yes both films were comedy dramas about a mismatched duo albeit on opposing sides of the law, and both had Brendon Gleeson, though in this film he switches from the straight guy role from in Bruges to the borderline madman in the Guard. Great that’s out the way, now I can concentrate on telling you readers that The Guard was a refreshing watch from of all that superhero, CGI and 3D madness I have been accustomed to over this busy summer 2011.
On the surface The Guard plays like a Richard Donner/Walter Hill movie as it plot dictates. A fish out of water tale where two dissimilar gentlemen who initially clash are forced together, and come the film’s end have a shared admiration. Yes kind of like Lethal Weapon or let’s say it has more resonance with 48 hours due to the adverse racism. But beyond the seeming unoriginality is a well written script with great dialogue preserved by the first time director Mc Donagh.
“I t’aught only black boys were drug dealers” –Gerry Boyle
The film follows Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), a “Guard” (member of the police force) in County Galway, South West Ireland, who is not averse to doing anything by the book. This may involve retrieving and using LSD from a recently dead corpse, groping a dead man’s genitalia to unnerve the new rookie, using prostitutes on the day off or doing shady deals with the IRA. When the FBI lose track of a disputed value of a huge shipment of cocaine, intelligence obliges Marshall Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to make a trip to this remote part of Ireland, soliciting help from the local Guards in search of the drug lords headed by Liam Cunningham.
Though the plot may seem contrived and the narrative’s pacing somewhat off-key, there is still much to admire from McDonagh’s direction. For one (as what his brother did for Brussels or Reed for Vienna) he captures a brilliant view of unfamiliar celluloid scenery; Galway’s clear grey skies, it’s view looking out to the Atlantic ocean and the vast plains of wilderness which lends itself to the Hollywood Western. The dialogue sounds authentic and even though it sometimes veers towards Quentin Tarantino territory it never betrays its sardonic sense of humour.
“You’re either really motherfucking dumb or really motherfucking smart”-Wendell Everett
However, the film’s main draw is unquestionably Brendon Gleeson with his should-be-award-winning performance as the contradictory Boyle. On point comic timing, subtleness and intricacy has provided a unique character that has not been seen since Jeff Bridges abided in the Big Lebowski. Gleeson has realised a supreme character study of lonely figure that doesn’t give a shit and ultimately just wants to be left alone. He is a man of his environment; a revisionist western sheriff surrounded by people enticed by Americanisms and “Fucking Barack Obama”. Ultimately Gleeson’s Boyle shifts our perspective from comical moron to honest hero and in the end managing to cut an unlikely Gary Cooper figure. Yes he is an amoral police officer, but he is about the only honest one in his part of Ireland.
I honestly do not believe that there is a better living actor in cinema today and it is fair to argue that it is Gleeson that saves the film from being mundane and cliché ridden. Though the supporting cast do a great job (especially Mark Strong, and Liam Cunningham) it is Cheadle’s character that really disappoints given the amount of screen time he has. You might say that he has little to go with, as Wendell is not extremely a well written, or rounded out role; rather than a maguffin to move the plot along. Though there aren’t many laugh out loud moments, but there should be plenty of chuckles and if you do go see it for one thing alone, then that should be for Brendan Gleeson.