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The Guard

A movie directed by John Michael McDonagh

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A fun, well-written cop comedy with a more intelligent and engaging agenda.

  • Mar 15, 2012
*** 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 Gerry Boyle, whose entire character is established and essentially summed up in the opening scenes; where he is witness to a car crash and does nothing to report it, instead searching the pockets of the victims for drugs, which he intends to keep for his own benefit. Boyle is lazy, incompetent, and never seems serious about his job. He isn't a good cop - or a bad cop - although I think the fascination of the character comes with the fact that we don't quite know what to call the guy.

Boyle's life is care-free and almost danger-free. He doesn't do good to solve crimes, a new assistant has transferred from Dublin, and he could care less about either. Instead, he'd just like to take days off from police duty and order a duet of prostitutes. If he isn't doing something of the sexual nature, he's either visiting his elderly mother Eileen Boyle - who supplies some insightful and intelligent conversations throughout the film - or he's rummaging through his stash of stolen narcotics. However, Boyle's life takes a turn for the dramatic and the genuinely relevant when an FBI agent named Everett (Don Cheadle) finds himself having to bring a potentially violent drug war to the attention of Doyle and the other boys on the force. Boyle partners up with the new man in town, and together, they're able to identify and confront the nasty smugglers.

I think the film works because it's simple, yet more depth lies beneath. I enjoy films like that, and it helps that "The Guard" is also consistently funny and laugh-out-loud twisted at times. It feels like a real movie, with well fleshed-out characters that are treated rather appropriately as individuals, instead of one being put on the back burner to make way for another. Cheadle is fantastic, and proves a good match for the equally as good - if not better - Gleeson, who pulls of quite an impressive performance here. The two are just so fun to watch in some scenes; and when they are on-screen together, this becomes an interesting and entertaining story of relationships, friendships, and whatever else may apply.

One thing I couldn't get by was the villains. You've got an intimidating lot - played by the likes of Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, and David Wilmot - but the film ceases to do anything interesting with a single member of the dynamic trio. Don't get me wrong, good performances are delivered by all three; it's just that I wish the film had taken the good with the bad in equal measures, instead of just focusing on the protagonists. Upon realizing this, I had also realized that the plot had developed into something more cliché than it initially was; although alas, I cannot say the same for the rich development of the central characters - the good guys, if you will.

The writer and director of "The Guard" is John Michael McDonagh; brother of playwright and "In Bruges" helmer Martin McDonagh). This is his feature debut, and I'm told he's got another one on the way. This is good; because he does such a good job behind the camera on the film. He immerses us - if only halfway - into the culture and climates of Ireland. Elements of the film that contribute to this quality the most include Larry Smith's gorgeous cinematography and use of scenery, McDonagh's taut script, and Calexico's energetic soundtrack score; which is somewhat reminiscent to that of a Spaghetti Western. So you see, "The Guard" is more a hybrid of many genres and many tones; thus making it delightfully unconventional, and surprisingly sound. No matter, I can tell you one thing; that it's got more of a voice than most comedies of last year.

People seem to have warmed up to this one. Perhaps even more than they did to the other McDonagh brother's "In Bruges", which I consider to be a modern masterpiece of dark comedy. At the least, I can say that "The Guard" deserved all the praise that it's been getting, and I'm happy for those who will find themselves liking it even more than I did. It's a film of humane humor, although I wish there were more human moments. It supplies us with the bare essentials and some of the unexpected necessities, although what separates the good from the great - in this case - is the absence of truly flawless chemistry between the characters. But then again, this isn't "Hot Fuzz" or "Shaun of the Dead". It's a comedy that borders on something more serious, without sacrificing its "funny factor"; so the relationships don't have to be flawless. I'm fine with "The Guard" as it is. It proves a lot of things, but among others, it shows that an eye for character writing and comic timing often runs in the family.

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More The Guard reviews
review by . September 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . July 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie



Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Release Date: 29 July 2011 (USA)
Screen Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Runtime: Germany: 96 min
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