Personally, I loved The Guard, though many will find the material too rich for their palates. Given that this is the most successful Irish film of all time in terms of box office, it would appear very many viewers like a cheeky, foul-mouthed, violent and unapologetically un-PC inky black comedy that takes the piss out of the Irish, Americans, Brits and anyone else it can find to offend.
Since it also combines elements of crime caper, seriously flawed policemen, a hint of road movie (taking in some lovely Irish countryside) and an oddball couple thrown together by force of circumstances, it will cross boundaries of genre and win friends among audiences who can put up with the strong language and questionable morality on display.
That it works so well is testament to a very sparky script and the very unlikely double-act mentioned above. This consists of the miraculously likeable Brendan Gleeson, playing rule-bending Garda Síochána Sergeant Gerry Boyle, and Don Cheadle‘s straight-laced straight-faced American FBI agent Wendell Everett. The unlikely pair take some juicy source material and energetic direction (both courtesy of John Michael McDonagh) and wring from it every ounce of comic potential.
Gleeson is an actor much to be admired. Where Cheadle rightly won plaudits and gongs for his performance in Hotel Rwanda and several other big budget Hollywood ventures (albeit with a dodgy cheeky chappy English accent in the Oceans series), Gleeson went quietly about his business with quirky but well-honed characters in the likes of the Harry Potter franchise, the wonderful In Bruges (which shares more than a few characteristics with The Guard), not to mention stand-out cameos in epics like Gangs of New York.
The camera loves him: Gleeson demonstrates fine technique and timing across every genre. He may not be young and beautiful to capture the leading man roles, but has proven himself more than capable of delivering excellent performances as a character actor – and not merely typecast as an Irishman either, having won an award for playing Winston Churchill in Into The Storm.
Gleeson looks totally at home here, literally and metaphorically. There is within Cheadle’s performance a hint of sending himself up, but as did Burt Reynolds in A Bunch of Amateurs, but he is nonetheless relaxed and enjoying himself to the hilt. Where on screen Boyle and Everett have an evening getting steadily drunk, you can imagine Gleeson and Cheadle may well have shared several, bringing with them a great cast and some equally quirky baddies in the form of drug dealers (Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and David Wilmot) – in fact all except the excellent Michael Og Lane as the boy who tips off Boyle.
Well I won’t spoil the fun by revealing any plot details – you’ll have to find out what happens for yourself, but trust me it’s worthwhile. Maybe a minor movie but it succeeds in doing what many films with vastly higher budgets than the $6m employed by McDonagh, by entertaining its audience from beginning to end. Whatever else might persuade us to go see a movie, surely this is the prime motivation, and this would be one evening most definitely not wasted.