Garda Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is not the kind of person that likes change in his life, so when FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) is sent to the wilds of Galway to investigate an international drug smuggling ring, Boyle is less than pleased.
The Guard has been critically acclaimed at film festivals across the world, and there has been so much talk about this film it is hard to believe that I have only seen it now. The hype is justified, however. Brendan Gleeson is on fantastic form as the sarcastic Garda who has seen it all, and not particularly cared for it. Gleeson’s comedic timing is second to none and he really gets to show off in this film full of one liners, sarcastic mumblings and confused racism. Don Cheadle is the perfect foil for the character, not only is he African-American, but he defies any stereotypical box that Boyle tries to put him in. Cheadle and Gleeson take turns in playing the ‘straight’ man, and when they do, the chemistry between them is second to none.
The supporting cast is a veritable who’s who of Irish talent; Darren Healy, Sarah Greene, David Wilmot and Pat Shortt all make appearances in the film, all as characters who are pulled into Boyle’s orbit. Mark Strong plays a fantastic bad guy, who is as confused by the bumbling provincial Gardaí as they are by him, and Liam Cunningham – who has just landed a role in game of Thrones (hurrah!) – plays a menacing drug trafficker with a warped sense of humour.
The Guard would be nothing without the script, and John Michael McDonagh has delivered a scorcher. The comedy is just dark enough, the tragedy hinted at gently and the pace kept light and speedy. Of course, John Michael’s brother is Martin – he of In Bruges fame – so there was a considerable amount to live up to. With The Guard, John Michael McDonagh has not only proven that he can write great Irish comedy, he has proven that he does not have to imitate his brother’s style in order to do so.
While it is Cheadle that is left standing, the real hero of the film is Brendan Gleeson’s Gerry Boyle who comes across, at first, as idiotic, racist and intolerant, but when it counts, is not quite as dumb as he looks.