Director: John Michael McDonagh
Rating (UK): 15
Year of Release (UK): 2011
Notable Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong
After watching the highly rated Calvary back on the very first day of February, it only made sense to revisit the first collaborative effort between John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson. I figured that The Guard couldn’t be nearly as sombre and sobering as Calvary.
Once again my powers of prediction astound me, for I was correct. Boiled down to its basics, The Guard is a buddy cop comedy centred around two very different characters – one being Gleeson’s small Irish town cop Gerry Boyle and the other Don Cheadle’s FBI Agent Wendell Everett – who must put their differences aside and band together to solve crimes. Well, specifically the one crime here in the form of a drug smuggling operation.
Whilst formulaic, The Guard still manages to work its magic. It may have the makings of a Hollywood big hitter, especially with the presence of Gleeson, Don Cheadle and Mark Strong, but like John Michael McDonagh’s other works, what sets it apart from being just ‘another’ kind of any genre film is its quintessential Irish heart. The specific brand of humour, both dark and lighthearted is so lighting quick and never feels ill-willed is so inherent in
Gleeson is always at his best when on home soil, playing a disgruntled, well, anything. Here, he just so happens to be a disgruntled Irish policeman, in Calvary it was a disgruntled priest. Gerry Boyle is a character that in lesser hands could’ve come across as one dimensional and fallen into a pit of clichés, not to mention becoming outright unpalatable due to the string of racist remarks thrust at Cheadle’s Everett.
Gleeson however manages to inject enough depth and layering to his character that I was intrigued to see his motives unfold and genuinely wrong-footed by his decisions on more than one occasion. By painting a picture of a lonely man that has turned bitter and resentful towards the world (often to comedic effect), it becomes easier to feel sympathy for a man who could understandably be described as unpleasant.
By no means the most original film, but one I enjoyed immensely. The writing is sharp enough to slice your finger off if you aren’t careful and the growing fondness – or at least understanding – that grows between Gleeson and Cheadle’s characters was plenty engaging for me. Not as good as the later Calvary which handled the darker themes with more resonance than here, but The Guard still gets a RECrecs 7/10.