Plot Gerry Boyle (Gleeson), an unconventional policeman in the west of Ireland, investigates a seemingly random murder. FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle) arrives in Galway to mount a large-scale operation against a well-organised drug-smuggling ring. At first irritated by Gerry's manner, Everett is surprised by the garda's canniness as he connects the murder to the drug case.
Kept busy as a support in big, international films, playing a Harry Potter eccentric or a Troy toga patriarch, Brendan Gleeson is a star character actor in Ireland. In Bruges, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, showed a film could profitably be built around his baggy, clear-eyed disappointment, especially if he gets reams of barbed, whimsical, profane, brutally funny dialogue. The Guard, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, Martin’s brother, is another blend of shaggy-dog story and genre picture, giving Gleeson a lawman role as strong as the gangster parts of In Bruges and The General. It’s a rare film you come out of hoping for a series with the same star/ character, though it’s also a perfect one-off and doesn’t quite end the way you expect.
Gleeson’s garda, Gerry Boyle, is a cross between Father Ted and the Bad Lieutenant. We meet him at the site of a stupid car crash, ticking off the corpses of joy-riders, but appropriating their drugs for his own consumption. He’s a dutiful if indulgent son to his terminally ill mother (Fionnula Flanagan) in a sub-plot most films would turn maudlin but which is a delight here. The kind of grown-up kid who’d visit Disneyland on his own, Gerry spends his day off with friendly Dublin ‘whooers’ dressed as fetish policewomen and makes polite, interesting conversation with the worst hard-men to put off the moment when he has to fight. He’s also a detective with Columbo-level insight born of acute observation of human nature, a fund of trivial knowledge and a stubborn streak of can’t-be-bothered-to-go-on-the-fiddle integrity in a region of the world where everybody else has decided to fill their pockets and shut their eyes.
The plot is standard, though the viewpoint is unusual. Conventionally, as a supporting character points out, this would be a Hollywood fish-out-of-water cop story with the FBI hotshot as hero. Here, straight-arrow Obama-era Fed Don Cheadle — who keeps having to tell disappointed people he’s not from the behavioural science unit and is just after drugs — manfully plays foil to Gleeson, who puts his hand up during a briefing to question the street value of a drugs haul (“I don’t know what street you buy your coca-ine on, but it certainly isn’t the street I buy my coca-ine on”) and genially responds to a reprimand with, “I’m Irish, racism is part of my culture.” Gerry isn’t really a racist, but one of nature’s contrarians, instinctively puncturing the posing of police and crooks alike, joshing a subordinate for talking like a cop show, chatting with the Volkswagen-driving chubby cowboy who represents the IRA (“Didn’t know you had gay lads in the IRA.” “To be sure, it was the only way to infiltrate the MI5”) and breaking off an exchange of menace with an arch-criminal (Liam Cunningham) to muse on the meaning of Bobby Gentry’s Ode To Billie Joe.
Gleeson commands the film like someone who doesn’t care about all the awards he ought to win (“You don’t get a medal for coming fourth in the Olympics”), but McDonagh has the knack of not writing a single conventional character or scene. Everyone gets great material, and Mark Strong and David Wilmot spin secondary bad-guy roles into relishable turns (Strong is funny about police corruption, Wilmot a sad-eyed killer who knows it won’t turn out well).
Verdict Among the most purely entertaining films of the year, which cuts its laughter with a dose of Celtic melancholy. It still delivers cop/action requirements - shoot-outs, revenges, daring deeds - and chances are, we'll be quoting lines from this forever.
Loved the Guard from start to finish, hardly original but very well executed none the less. Gleeson as watchable as ever with strong support from Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong in particular. Don't really understand the need for all the soul searching on contemporary Ireland, the Guard has generated, it's a thriller, not a social commentary.
If you want to address the state of the Nation and the Church in particular take a look at Calvary.
What a nice change of pace this movie delivers.
Wonderfully written, and totally owned by all the characters, it's a funny and surprising film.
I will be recommending this to all my friends, and then quoting the hell out of it too. "You went to Disneyland....by yourself ?!?" ... More
This is no blockbuster. If you're looking for an action movie, or a laugh-out comedy, go elsewhere. Similarly if you're offended by bad language... but oh, I enjoyed this film for so many reasons. As mentioned elsewhere, Brendan Gleeson is superb. But so are the rest of the cast - there really isn't a weak link in the chain, and they are provided with a clever, witty script cracking with good dialogue. This is a black comedy which could only have been made on this side of the pond: make your way... More
The Guard is a strange film. I think it's fair to say that. Mashing up all the melancholy elements from a thousand drama films and cramming them into a chalk-and-cheese pseudo-buddy cop film was never going to be an easy task, but it's been done. Admirably so, in fact. Gleeson's character is among the most memorable characters to grace the screen in my lifetime, and while it would've been nice to see a few more scenes featuring him and Cheadle, the film moves along at a comfortable speed, introd... More
This didn't do a lot for me. Aside for Empire's glowing review, I had it recommended to me by several people, so watched it expecting a**** rating at least. I just found it all a bit tepid. Blendon Gleeson was ok, but Don Cheadle pretty much sleptwalked through it, and don't get me started on Mark Strong. His worst 'rentabaddie' part by far. Liked him in Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood, but this was like something out of drama school. Total waste of his talent. Rent Drive instead... More
Have to agree with Empire on this one. What starts as a fish out of water comedy becomes a whole lot more. Superb. Oh, and my advice to the anorak criticizing the lighting? Stick to Sight And Sound, son... ... More
Eyond that the audience I watched this with folded into coniption after coniption at the artless end-of the-pier comedy? I enjoy the delightful back link] and forth in the diner between Gleeson and Cunningham.
Resembles In Bruges though not as brilliant, but still entertaining and great fun. Brendon Gleeson simply steals the show. Another interesting review at
I absolutely loved this film. I think its the best I've seen this year, even better than Super 8. Brendan Gleeson is perfect in the role, as are the rest of the cast, especially his mother, who is a dead ringer for My Auntie Joan, in looks and in outlook (amyl nitrate vicar?).
Well worth 5 stars in my humble opinion.
PS Also loved In Bruges, but that's a different film isn't it? ... More
Gleeson, as always, is a genuine pleasure to watch, spouting out quotable lines after quotable lines, and manfully establishes himself as one of the finer talents in black comedy. The script is excellently written, with more comedic musings and material than In Bruges, whilst In Bruges may have better set pieces, I enjoy the delightful back and forth in the diner between Gleeson and Cunningham. It gave me a flashback to Heat, with De Niro and Pacino squaring off, with all their heart and soul ba... More
I enjoyed this film although I wasn't always sure whether those laughing loudest at some of the edgier dialogue were doing so because they thought it outrageous or because they heartily agreed with it. I took a vacation in Galway and Clare in June and the film made good use of the region's scenery and attrocious weather. ... More
If Boyle was a policeman anywhere else (except for some of the more redneck US states) and displayed his sort of arrogant laissez-faire attitude his name would be straight on the desk of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Somewhat predictably, despite his attitude, he wins out (sort of) in a somewhat undercooked crime jape. Some classic one liners but the fim overal is hardly 5 star classic, good though it is. ... More
Really enjoyed this film and the shoot-out was more exciting than any recent Hollywood action scene I have seen. Not sure I loved it as much as the critics though. They might have enjoyed it more as it came as a surprise to them as opposed to viewers who are watching it after all the hype. Definitely not a 5 star Empire. ... More