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The Guard

September 17, 2014

The Guard (2011)
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Actors: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham

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Synopsis: Co. Galway copper Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), finds his regular working-life turned upside down when murders and a huge international drug deal come to his sleepy corner of Ireland. Boyle begrudgingly works with FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to get to the bottom of the conspiracy….

Review: The Guard comes very much in the lineage of the work of John Michael McDonagh’s brother Martin, and his brand of scabrous, witty genre pastiches (think In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths). While hardly covering new ground or offering up any surprises, it’s hard to deny The Guard’s simple unpretentious aim to provide a right good rollocking laugh, and standing right at the centre of all that is good about the film is the solid, genial presence of Brendan Gleeson in the lead role. It’s hard to recall a more utterly assured, concentrically-rounded comic character performance of recent years in the cinema.

What’s so effective about The Guard is how on the one hand it has just enough of a narrative trajectory to keep it from feeling entirely like a sketch-show, but never at any point are we allowed to forget the simple artifice and general air of bemused irreverence as a classic Hollywood-style cop scenario descends into the unlikely environs and canvas of western Ireland. It’s probably the silliness of it all that I like the most, particularly the moment where Liam Cunningham’s key drug kingpin threatens Gleeson’s cop in a garish American diner, leaving Gleeson seemingly fraught with his head in his hands, only for him to reveal he’s suffering from nothing worse than an ice cream headache! It’s stupid, there’s no real conceit there – yet somehow it’s an exquisite gag. Special mention also to the great Mark Strong, who turns in a lovely performance as a world-weary, inquisitive and uncommonly philosophical London thug. (September 2014)

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