Brendon Gleeson + dark comedy = GOLD.
Written by Angela St. Michaels
Garda is Gaelic for Policeman. The policeman in the movie The Guard is Gerry Boyle played by veteran actor, Brendan Gleeson. The Guard was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh. Gleeson also starred in the 2008 In Bruges directed by Martin McDonagh (John Michael McDonagh’s brother).
The Guard also stars Don Cheadle as FBI agent Wendell Everett. When FBI Agent Everett is sent to County Sligo, Ireland to investigate a drug ring, he ends up partnered with the seemingly inept Boyle.
Boyle is lazy, drinks on the job and enjoys close relationships with prostitutes. He is also fond of the f-word. His questionable world has already been disrupted when he gets a straight-laced partner from Dublin, Garda Aidan McBride (Rory Keenan). In the film, Dublin as a city is often rebuked by the West coast Irish characters habituated to the slow, easy pace of Conamara, County Galway.
As Sergeant Boyle tries to adapt to two clean-cut partners when he is acclimatized to working alone, he must also become accustomed to dealing with black people. He possesses zero finesse when it comes to dealing with Agent Everett. The audience is never certain if he is trying to deliberately insult Everett or if Boyle is just that ignorant. Agent Everett tells him: “I can’t tell if you’re really dumb or really smart.”
The audience comes to see the gentle side of Boyle when he is in scene with his dying mother, Eileen Boyle (Fionnula Flanagan). Mother and son lean into one another with great humour and warmth; the two enjoy a tender relationship.
The dialogue is pure acerbic, Irish wit. Also in keeping with the tradition of good Irish story-telling, the local characters in McDonagh’s film are nothing short of colourful. The image of a curious boy on a pink bicycle and colourful attire is threaded throughout the film; the boy on the bicycle adds a symbolic element of child-like innocence or naivete to the film. Ironically, the curious child turns out to be one of Gleeson’s informers.
The identity of the drug dealers is never hidden in the film. (Think more Guy Ritchie’s Snatch 2000 than Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest 1959). Eventually, in a good cop/bad cop routine, the virtuous FBI agent and the corrupt but loveable garda begin to trust one another. The climatic scene is a shoot-out on a docked boat. It is character-centered rather than dependent upon the tired Hollywood special effects.
The Guard is a delightful film that delivers many heart-warming laughs, some heartfelt moments and the opportunity to meet one of the most endearing characters of contemporary Irish cinema.
Cast & Credits
Gerry Boyle – Brendan Gleeson
FBI agent Everett – Don Cheadle
Francis Sheehy – Liam Cunningham
Liam O’Leary – David Wilmot
Aidan McBride – Rory Keenan
Clive Cornell – Mark Strong
Eileen Boyle – Fionnula Flanagan
My Rating: 9/10
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