The Guard Movie Review

Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) looks on wearily as a carload of drinkin’ druggin’ hoons tears through County Galway on a coastal country road. He’s in no hurry to apprehend them, and as it happens he has no need to over-extend himself on this occasion. Just down the road they lose control and total the car as well as themselves. The flabby Boyle waddles over for a desultory inspection of the crash scene, retrieves a packet of chemical contraband from the wreckage, pops one of the pills therein and mutters as he gazes out to sea at the rising sun “Looks like another fookin’ lovely day.”

This opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie: irreverent, funny, shocking, perverse. These descriptors could as well be applied to Boyle, whose approach to policing is, shall we say, singular. His regional posting allows him plenty of lattitude, and that’s fortunate given his subversive piss-taking humour and his predilection for whoring and getting wasted. And before you start protesting that these behavioural qualities are not so uncommon among movie cops, be assured that Gleeson has brought something quite unique – and uniquely Irish – to this character, which has no Hollywood counterpart.

This is hammered home to great comic effect when FBI African-American agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) and his team arrive on the scene on the trail of a major drug smuggling ring reputed to be operating in the area. Agent Everett is strictly by-the-rules, and is grossly affronted by Boyle’s apparent impertinence and disregard of police and social etiquette during an initial briefing session. Not only does Boyle’s deprecating humour and inappropriate interjections reflect disrespect of the rank of Agent Everett and his FBI cohorts, but he cracks some jokes drawing on black racial stereotyping. As things transpire, this is but the start of some confronting times for Everett as he struggles to negotiate the cultural chasm twixt urban USA and rural Ireland.

The narrative progresses conventionally enough, heading inexorably for a showdown between the bad guys and the two unlikely cop partners, but the end defies expectations, and there are lots of intruiging comic and not-so-comic twists and turns along the way. And there are some surprisingly poignant moments. Gleeson brings a humanity to his character in his interactions with his terminally ill mother, the Romanian wife of a young cop murdered on his first day of his new posting, and even a couple of prostitutes he hires for a threesome, that more than compensate for his many flaws. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a character this much since Falstaff. Wraps don’t get any bigger than that from me.

While there is no doubt this is Gleeson’s show, he is well supported by all the other actors. The writing sparkles with wit, most of the best lines going to Gleeson (as is fitting – he relishes doing them justice!). For example, on answering the door to a female stranger in his underwear, he offers to “change into something less comfortable.” This is one of several laugh-out-loud moments.

Refreshingly, also, the writing, while waaay left of centre, is not try-hard or self-conscious as so many aspiring off-the-wall pieces are. Again, much of the credit must go to Gleeson, who invests his off-beat character with an improbable authenticity that anchors the movie in its own warped and quinessentially Irish world. Very clever stuff, and hugely enjoyable.

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