An Irish black comedy with thrills to go along with its un-PC laughs, The Guard features a cracking turn from Brendan Gleeson and a witty script from writer/director John Michael McDonagh.
Gleeson has become one of those actors you can always rely on, no matter the quality of film. One of his finest moments came in the 2008 film In Bruges, which was written and directed by playwright Martin McDonagh. Here the other McDonagh brother John Michael utilises Gleeson’s talents to equally brilliant effect, and in the process Gleeson turns in some of his best work.
Gleeson stars as West Irish policeman (or “Garda”) Sergeant Gerry Boyle, perhaps the most charming bad cop to appear on screen. He loves his mum (Flora Fernandez-Marengo), his drugs, and his prostitutes, and not necessarily in that order.
To call Gerry an interesting, entertaining and enigmatic character would be an understatement. One moment he is supplying the IRA with guns. The next he is talking literature with his cancer suffering mum.
Gerry’s supposedly nihilistic worldview is put to the test when an FBI agent named Wendell (Don Cheadle) arrives on the scene. $500 million (that’s half a billion) of drugs is expected to pass through West Ireland, to be sold by an entertaining group of villains led by Mark Strong’s disgruntled drug trafficker.
As a black man in Ireland, Wendell is a fish out of water which Gerry gleefully loves to tease with unabashed un-PC putdowns. “I thought only black people and Mexicans sold drugs?” asks a straight faced Gerry. It takes some time for Wendell to get on Gerry’s wave length, yet openly ponders if Gerry is very smart or very stupid. He’s not the only one.
It is through Gleeson’s performance where McDonagh’s biting, sarcastic humour truly shines, as does his philosophical musings on life, death and the grating use of Americanisms. The before mentioned In Burges shares the same outlook, yet it was a vastly overrated movie, something which The Guard is definitely not.
McDonagh has created quite the special blend: part buddy cop movie, part dark comedy, that can either make you wince at its violence or cackling with its jokes.
Hopefully by year’s end voters will remember Gleeson’s performance and McDonagh’s script for awards consideration. Comedies this smart and underplayed this well don’t come often. May McDonaugh make more of its like.