Few films make me really laugh out loud, maybe its because of my fondness for the darker psychological fare of filmmaking, but The Guard directed by newcomer John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh and executive producer for the film) nearly had me in tears. The primary reason is a rock solid performance by Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a curmudgeon Irish policeman who utilizes untraditional methods to enforce the law. Working from a witty script by McDonagh, The Guard transcends the generic crime genre into a sublime work of impeccable comedic timing.
The opening scene does a great job of introducing the audience to the character Sergeant Boyle as he witness a car full of teens high on drugs flip over and proceeds to pick up a tab of LSD and pop it in his mouth. From here on out, the Irish humor takes off as Gleeson must investigate an atypical murder in the usually quiet region of Ireland that he purveys over. This is probably the films greatest weakness in that the crime mystery that Boyle is investigating isn’t really that compelling or interesting. However that’s not really the point of the film, and that’s a good thing, because what’s far more interesting is the dynamic of Boyle as a character and his interactions with those around him.
Don Cheadle, who also executive produced the film, stars opposite Gleeson as FBI agent Wendall Everett, sent over from the US to oversee the drug trafficking at the center of the plot. The relationship between these two primary characters is a great back and forth, as Sergeant Boyle, who is mocked by his fellow Irish policeman, enlightens Cheadle about the nuances of Irish culture. There are also some nice subtle moments with Boyle and his sickly mother, played by Fionnula Flanagan, that showcase the humanity of our Irish protagonist and gives his character more layers than would expect from this type of film.
Overall, The Guard is just a really fun ride, kind of like an Irish version of Hot Fuzz. The dialogue and banter between characters is what keeps the audience hooked, along with Sergeant Boyles continually inappropriate jokes. Gleeson’s performance is so enjoyable and gives his character such charisma that it’s almost impossible not to like him. McDonagh, obviously taking a page from his brother’s In Bruges style, displays confidence and control over the film while realizing that his greatest asset is Gleeson’s charm, which takes center stage. If you’ve been searching for a comedy that will leave you in stitches, then look no further and seek out this Irish pot of comedy gold.
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