In the small Irish town of Galway, unorthodox cop, Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), is investigating a murder. To complicate matters FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) is in town, promoting awareness of a drug smuggling ring operating out of West Ireland. Inevitably the cases are linked and the pair must team up to crack the case.
In 2008 an odd little film about two assassins quietly came along, seemingly from nowhere, and entranced the few people who took the effort to see it. It was called In Bruges, it starred Collin Farrell and it handled pitch black comedy with a lightness of touch and the occasional edge of seriousness that proved hilarious, invigorating and constantly kept the viewer guessing to the eventual tone of the piece, a tone that is difficult to convey to those who haven’t seen it.
While In Bruges’ writer/director, Martin McDonagh, only produced The Guard, his brother, John Michael McDonagh, acted as writer/director this time out, but fans of In Bruges will be happy to know that their approach to humour is so similar that both films could easily be mistaken for having the same writer. The story, lets face it, is far from original, but a familiar set-up is absolutely necessary for the excellently rendered characters to work.
Indeed, the film’s originality lies with lead character Gerry Boyle’s singular take on his job and life in general. A laid back, fun loving, if scathingly sarcastic guy, Boyle has an extraordinary insight into character that works best while being underestimated by those around him; a kind of foul-mouthed Columbo, if you will. It’s a great turn by Gleeson (Troy, Gangs of New York), which is complimented by Don Cheadle’s (Iron Man 2, Crash) straight-man act, as the straight-laced, but not unintelligent Agent Everett.
The humour is dry, crass and pulls no punches, yet is smart, witty and totally unpredictable. As mentioned, the story is cliché, but as it happens, actually quite enthralling; you’ll find that you truly want Boyle to get to the bottom of the situations, a knock-on effect from having genuinely well written three dimensional characters, a factor all too often missing from legitimate cop dramas. It never quite gets as dark as In Bruges, but it certainly has its moments.
The look of the film is pretty basic, McDonagh confidently placing the emphasis on the great performances and his own script, but the no frills approach works to The Guard’s favour, grounding the events in a believable reality in which a visiting FBI agent is a big deal.
I fully expect The Guard to underperform at the box-office, but those who make time for it are in for a treat and quite a few laughs. It surely has cult status stamped all over it.
B grade – for storytelling
A grade – for dialogue
C grade – for visuals
B+ grade – for performances
Overall grade – B+
Watch the trailer…