The Guard
dir-scr John Michael McDonagh
prd Chris Clark, Flora Fernandez-Marengo, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe
with Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, David Wilmot, Fionnula Flanagan, Katarina Cas, Rory Keenan, Gary Lydon, Michael Og Lane, Laurence Kinlan, Pat Shortt
release US 29.Jul.11 sff, UK 19.Aug.11
11/Ireland 1h36
The Guard
Sociopath or psychopath? Cheadle and Gleeson

cunningham strong flanagan
Opening film:
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Guard Writer-director McDonagh brings to this film the same blend of black comedy, dark emotion and grisly violence as his brother Martin's gem In Bruges. And it's also another terrific character for Gleeson.

Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is an unpredictable policeman in a small Irish town. When a local murder is linked to an international drug-smuggling case, he's assigned to work with FBI Agent Everett (Cheadle), who like everyone else can't quite figure out if Boyle's a genius or an idiot. As they track down three notorious traffickers (Cunningham, Strong and Wilmot), the case gets increasingly complicated. But Boyle doesn't let it affect his private obsessions with hookers and drugs. More troublesome is his ill mum (Flanagan) and a young Croatian woman (Cas) whose husband is missing.

Despite the gritty subject matter, the film has a boldly comical attitude that sits as a prickly counterpoint to the vicious bloodshed and serious drama. Everything is underscored with a colourful sense of irony. And the dialog is a hilarious barrage of banter as the characters continually test each other, trying to find the breaking point or provoking a specific reaction that rarely comes. These are vividly cantankerous people, and it's great fun to watch them interact.

It also helps that the cast is so sharp, anchored by the superb Gleeson, who can somehow still be loveable as an anarchic, vice-ridden slacker. But Boyle isn't a Bad Lieutenant kind of cop; Gleeson subtly shows us that he's more caring and on-the-ball than everyone around him. The pairing of Gleeson with Cheadle works brilliantly, as their brittle-dry humour bounces hilariously off each other. And Strong is one of the funniest movie grumps ever.

While playing with cop cliches, McDonagh carefully gives each character a bundle of distinct quirks while hinting at back-stories that we never quite get to see. As a result, we're gripped by every scene, wondering what we'll learn next about these people. In this sense - and because we're a step ahead of everyone - the rather uneven central plot is irrelevant. But the riotous blend of absurdity, violence and emotion keeps us thoroughly entertained right to the intensely clever ending.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 20.May.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall