(Sony Pictures Classics) Sgt. Gerry Boyl smirks to himself, surrounded by heaps of twisted automobiles and an array of body parts. “What a beautiful f---ing day,” he remarks as he pilfers the drugs left in the victims’ pockets. Thus begins The Guard -- John Michael McDonagh’s directorial debut and ferocious Irish comedy. If McDonagh’s name sounds familiar, you might be thinking of John’s younger brother Martin -- writer and director of indie-darling In Bruges. The two share the same ferocious gallows humor as seen in The Guard.
Gerry Boyl (Brendan Gleeson), a gleefully crass Garda cop, has spent his life content to drink a pint or two, party with a pair of high-end hookers, and pal around with his equally irreverent (and terminally ill) mother (Fiona Flanagan). When he and his partner stumble upon a dead body, Boyl’s life and tiny Gaelic town are turned upside down.
Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) shows up fresh off the plane from Atlanta, eager to apprehend a trio of international drug traffickers before their cocaine shipment arrives. He meets with the Irish Garda Police Force to brief the locals, when Boyl pipes up with a series of racial insults. Just as Everett is ready to bench Boyl for good, Boyl reveals that one of the criminals on the loose is none other than the dead body he had discovered that morning.
The two form an unlikely partnership as they scour the town for clues. Boyl and Everett are polar opposites: Everett, professional and poised, is so very American, while Boyl seems a vulgar mess. After bonding over a pint (or two, or three), the bickering duo starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Part gangster thriller and part buddy-cop parody, The Guard is a quirky, often violent comedy that is more about the witty back-and-forth between its characters than the underlying crime plot. Mark Strong is particularly charming as part of the trio of existential baddies who pause to consider their lot in life between executions and drug trafficking. Don Cheadle works well as Everett, unsure if Boyl is “really f---in’ smart or really f---in’ stupid.”
Gleeson brings a tender humanity to the outwardly grumpy Boyl, revealing a disillusioned, lonely man determined to get to the bottom of the case. The Guard is a welcome respite from flashy, gross-out American comedies; character driven, unapologetic, and deliciously devious.
For Fans Of: In Bruges, A Fish Called Wanda