Much like his older brother Martin’s In Bruges, John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard aims to drop jaws with hilariously un-PC antics, while allowing itself to have a genuine backbone. The salty and the sweet, laced with a touch of acid.
The Guard tells the story of Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a carefree, rule-bending Irish policeman who unexpectedly becomes partnered with Wendell, a by-the-book FBI agent investigating a massive drug smuggling ring that may or may not be passing through Gerry’s small Irish town.
But plot, as casually observed in In Bruges, isn’t the McDonaghs' primary interest. They thrive on situational dialogue and graphic violence that is often made humorous. Witnessing the blasé reaction of a character’s death in The Guard (“Nice shot,” he murmurs as he falls dead) is nearly as funny as John Travolta’s reaction upon shooting Marvin in the face.
In short, The Guard is a damn funny film, ranking with Bridesmaids and The Trip as the most hilarious film of the year. From The Guard’s opening scene, which includes loud rap music, bottles of Jameson, acid tablets and bloodied bodies, you know you’re in for a witty, demented treat.
Brendan Gleeson is perfectly cast as Gerry. Whether he’s fondling a very fresh victim of homicide, or playfully ripping the blouse off an eager prostitute, Gleeson plays Gerry as an aloof man of loose morals, but one of tireless compassion. As Wendell puts it, “I can’t tell if you’re really motherfucking dumb, or really motherfucking smart.”
Gleeson has successfully managed to tap two markets, the Hollywood blockbuster (he’s had memorable roles in Braveheart, Gangs of New York, Troy, and a few Harry Potter films), and the credible indie scene (28 Days Later, Dark Blue, Harrison’s Flowers). And while I thought his acting reached a welcomed new high with In Bruges, it’s hard to top his performance in The Guard. Expect to hear (and hopefully see) some awards consideration.
Now, while The Guard is littered with amusing interludes of witty dialogue, the movie is not without its faults. For one, Don Cheadle’s Tennessee accent tends to noticeably dip in and out during long monologues (in fact, his Southern heritage lends nothing significant to the character; Cheadle could’ve easily kept his own voice). Secondly, the film has a slight tendency to linger and drag, which at 96 minutes long, isn’t really a good thing.
But these are nitpicky qualms. If you want to laugh, The Guard will most amicably suit your needs, if you want to think, well, see something else (The Tree of Life and Incendies are still lurking around out there). You’ll undoubtedly have to scout out The Guard at an indie theater; so bottom line: it’s worth it, and then some. B