The Guard

Film, Comedy
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The Guard
Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson in The Guard.
The creation of a truly memorable movie character is a complex process: it’s not simply a case of having a great script or a talented actor; equal attention must be paid to the world in which the character finds himself and the other figures he comes into contact, and often conflict, with.

Garda Sergeant Gerry Boyle, the hero of writer-director John Michael McDonagh’s debut feature ‘The Guard’, is a spectacular creation: a drug-sniffing, booze-swigging, blarney-spouting iconoclast with an eye for the ladies, an exhaustive knowledge of literature, film and the arts and a penchant for infuriating the higher-ups at every conceivable opportunity. But the devil is in the details. So while McDonagh has created an unforgettable central figure, and Brendan Gleeson has responded with a towering, Oscar-worthy performance, the rest of the film struggles to rise to the occasion.

The plot is familiar buddy movie fare – when a murder takes place in Boyle’s sleepy Connemara village, he soon pinpoints the perpetrators as a gang of ruthless international drug smugglers, but the powers that be have assigned a by-the-book FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to the case. The usual fish-out-of-water shenanigans ensue, but eventually these two proud policemen reach an understanding.

There’s an enormous amount to enjoy in ‘The Guard’: McDonagh’s script crackles with memorable one-liners, the rapport between Gleeson and Cheadle is note-perfect and the film’s observations on small-town life are piercing and often hilarious. So it’s frustrating when, after a flawless first act, the script begins to wander off the point: Cheadle is kept off screen for far too long while we spend time in the company of Mark Strong and his band of overwritten, philosophy-spouting Tarantino-esque crooks and Boyle is sidetracked by a vague, unsatisfying flirtation with a murdered colleague’s wife.

The cast is studded with solid supporting performances from the likes of Strong, Fionnula Flanagan and Irish comedy icon Pat Shortt, but sometimes there are too many side characters to keep track of. And while McDonagh’s direction has flashes of brilliance – the savage, sadistically funny opening scene is one for the ages – he often struggles to lend his film a genuinely cinematic look.

The result is a hugely entertaining but frustratingly disorganised film, packed with priceless moments which never quite coalesce into a rewarding whole. Gerry Boyle is a masterful creation – and a character well worth returning to, should the film prove successful – but one can’t help feeling that if equal attention had been paid to other elements, ‘The Guard’ could have stepped up from simply fun Friday night fare to outright comedy classic.

By: Tom Huddleston


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday July 8 2011
Duration: 96 mins

Cast and crew

Director: John Michael McDonagh
Screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson
Liam Cunningham
Don Cheadle

Average User Rating

3.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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If I were Don Cheadle, I would quietly let this one slip off my CV. A crude "fish out of water" storyline where the Irish characters (the Guard himself being the exception) are dim and the Brit is clever. There are only four speaking parts for women in this film, they are assigned the roles of wife, widow, mother and whore. Does British/Irish director John Michael McDonagh, have some issues that need addressing?

First movie in a long time I can say 'forget the movie, embrace the character'. Hilarious movie, not recommended for teeny boppers they won't get this excellent masterpiece!! Although the character out does the movie, its still quality!!

First movie in a long time I can say 'forget the movie, embrace the character'. Hilarious movie, not recommended for teeny boppers they won't get this excellent masterpiece!! Although the character out does the movie, its still quality!!

As others have noted, this is often reminiscent of In Bruges but not in the same class. Enjoyable nonetheless. 3 and a half stars.

Brendan Gleeson is superb, but this film ain't no 'In Bruges'. I'd give it 5/10.......'In Bruges' was 9/10

The review just about nails the film spot on. Gleeson is superb and Cheadle is excellent. Like In Brugges a film that is excellent in many places and incredibly funny yet equally poignant doesn't quite hit the heights it could. Its more than a 3 star film but not quite a 4. Probably a 3 3/4. It won't be for everyone so if you aren't keen on sex, violence and more than just a bit of swearing it may not be to your taste. Having said that the loudest and most regular laughs came from a West Indian lady probably in her sixties in the row in front of me. Its good but not quite very good.