Michael John McDonagh has previously written the screenplay for Ned Kelly starring Heath Ledger which I remember as a good movie. His brother Martin has won two Academy Awards, for Best Original Screenplay for In Bruges, which also starred Brendan Gleeson, and what I consider the best performance of Colin Farrell's career, and for the short feature Six Shooter, A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films, also starring Brendan Gleeson, and at least two other characters you will see in The Guard, written and directed by MJ.
As the movie begins we see Gerry Boyle, the guard played by BG, in his white squad car parked behind a stone wall, when a red car whizzes by. He does not respond to the speeding car. His response to what happens next, has no words, yet it establishes the nature of the character, as he rummages through pockets, and does something with the drugs. We can deduce that here is a guard that does not follow the established rules, and in fact may even be corrupt.
Next we see him responding to a murder scene. Here we get a truer sense of his character by how he acts around the new cop who will be his partner. Here the comedic tone of the movie gets established. He likes to push buttons and get a reaction. They theorise about the murder, a potted plant placed on the victim's crotch, the significance of the number 5 1/2 painted on the wall. Perhaps he was the 5 1/2th victim, the young one theorises.
Like another reviewer I was struck by the parallels with the Coen Brothers, particularly Fargo, and No Country For Old Men. Instead of the barren landscapes of Minnesota, and the quirky Nordic accents of Minnesotans, we have the bog landscape of the Wesht of Ireland, and the quirks and mores of the locals. We have sociopathic criminals. We also have the quirky Spaghetti Western music, reinforcing the ironic tone. We also have a trace of Ryan's Daughter, and a half cracked young lad on a bike, who mirrors John Hurt's character in that movie. We have murderous criminals who debate their favorite philosophers as they drive along.
So, strait laced, by the book FBI agent Wendell Evers played by Don Cheadle, moseys into town, hot on the trail of an international smuggling ring hoping to land half a billion dollars worth of drugs in Ireland. Instantly, this sets up a culture clash, with Boyle making racially insensitive comments. When rebuked, his response. "I'm Irish. Racism is part of our culture."
When Boyle is by himself he wanders his house in his red or yellow y fronts scratching. He does not seem like a brilliant cop. However, not following the book, opens up levels of resourcefulness for him. Guards don't carry firearms in Ireland, yet in a prescient way he manages to acquire weapons, donating the balance to the local IRA man who wears a cowboy hat. With his seeming amorality, you wonder if when push comes to shove, he will back off and let the criminals do their thing or if he will intervene.
Perhaps my favorite scene, the second derringer scene, reminiscent of similar scenes at the beginning of Inglorious Basterds, and final scene with Woody Harrelson in No Country for Old Men. Life and death hangs in the balance.
Boyle tells Evers he came fourth in swimming in the Olympics, which made me search the internet after the movie. The answer may surprise you.
Another theme is the nihilism, which is that events have no inherent meaning, a consistent theme in several Coen Brothers movies.
For non Irish speakers, our FBI detective attempts at one point to interview some Irish speaking people. In speech they refer to him as fear gorm, which the subtitle translates as black man. The word gorm actually means blue. If you were saying it literally, it would be fear dubh (pronounced far duhve).
I know that some people claim that they cannot understand foreign accents. Where on earth do you hear more foreign accents than in North America on a daily basis? If I walk the streets of San Francisco, I will hear German, English, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, South American, you name it. So, we have Oprah Winfrey, or Sigourney Weaver, narrating BBC produced documentaries because producers think customers cannot discern an English accent. The English in this movie is well spoken with a slight accent. West may be pronounced Wesht, just like Sean Connery doesn't say accent, he says ackshent. Even Schwarzenegger was not the governor of California, he was the governor of Callie phone ee yeah.
I saw this at Robert Redford's Sundance Theater in San Francisco. It was an afternoon show, and the political incorrectness, and several American pop culture references, and fun poking commments resonated with the audience.
If you wish to see Brendan Gleeson in another movie, I recommend John Boorman's The General, where he plays Martin Cahill based on a real life Irish gangster.
So, I loved this movie. I think most people will feel the same way, and I think we have seen a great new talent with Michael John McDonagh, in a very impressive first outing as director. It's clear that talent runs in this family, and perhaps they see parallels between themselves as brothers, and the Coen Brothers. I don't think such a comparison is grandiose, and I wonder if they will work together on future projects. I believe that 'genius, in order to be emulated, must first be imitated.'
I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful. Thank you.
*** out of **** Ireland is known for producing good films and good stars. One of the greatest finds in the latter category, over the years, has unquestionably been Brendan Gleeson; that great, big, lovable bloke who appeared in films ranging from "28 Days Later" to "The Green Zone". Now, he's back in his native country, working for a native filmmaker, in "The Guard"; the latest movie to make great use of Gleeson's broad range of acting talents. Here, he plays corrupt cop Sergeant … more
Star Rating: John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard has all the reliable hallmarks of a crime thriller – police corruption, drug trafficking, blackmail, and murder – but at its heart, it’s a wickedly funny buddy cop movie. What makes it even funnier is that it’s also in part a fish out of water story; two policemen from different worlds, literal and figurative, must join forces if they’re to successfully take on a gang of international … more