The Guard DVD Review

As opening scenes go, John Michael McDonagh’s in his black comedy The Guard is up there with the best. In the early hours of the morning on a remote country road, a speeding car driven by kids off of their collective tits careers out of control with catastrophic consequences.

A lone policeman, who’s been watching from a safe distance, carefully approaches the smouldering wreck and says a brief prayer of thanks before helping himself to the victims’ narcotics and swallows a tab.

The sheriff of a wild west Ireland backwater, Sergeant Gerry Boyle is a hefty, middle aged man who indulges in the more debauched things in life; drinking, whoring and drugging, laced with some casual racism for good measure.

The slow pace of life in Boyle’s Galway district, as well as his laissez-faire approach to police work, affords him plenty of time to engage in these extra-curricular pursuits.

Things take a turn for the slightly inconvenient when Boyle attends the scene of a brutal murder, and the crime is linked to a known drug smuggling ring believed to be in the locality.

This cabal is large enough to warrant the attention of a suitably textbook FBI operative, Wendell Everett, who rides into town to brief the local police forces about the suspects.

As well as educating Boyle about racial language etiquette and American cop shows.

Reluctantly, our work-shy, backwards Sergeant is tasked with chaperoning and assisting Everett as he makes his enquiries in this unwelcoming corner of Galway.

Seemingly more interested in pursuing threesomes with syphilitic prostitutes from the “big city” than anything like justice, Boyle is gradually drawn into this investigation and his unlikely alliance with Everett.

Packed with darkly humorous dialogue and hilarious one-liners that belong to a non pc age, The Guard is essentially a riff on that traditional cinematic staple; the buddy cop movie.

The hero of this story is underplayed brilliantly by Brendan Gleason, in one of the best comic performances I’ve seen in a long time.

Carrying the film with his deadpan delivery and quintessentially Irish charisma, Gleason is hugely engaging as Sergeant Gerry Boyle; even if you’re never quite sure if he’s as much of a throwback as he seems or simply having a laugh at his senior colleagues’ expense.

Don Cheadle takes a break from his appalling cockney dialect with a passable impression FBI agent Everett, the straight cop to Boyle’s twisted approach to police work.

The scenes between these two actors are always funny and, as their characters become closer as they investigate their connected cases, occasionally touching.

Having broken box office records for an independent Irish film, and picked up the odd award along the way to boot, The Guard’s biggest triumph is that a black comedy about drug smuggling, murder and corrupt police forces can be dealt with in such a hilarious and even heart-warming manner.

In the way that only the Irish can.

Frank Gardiner

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Dates ‘n stuff

January 2012