By Linc Leifeste | August 18, 2011
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan
Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a gruff and cynical small-town Irish policeman with a penchant for gorgeous call girls, booze, the occasional illegal drug and apparently little taste for police work. And he’s living the life he loves with little interference. That is, until his life gets more complicated by the arrival of a new partner, Guard Aidan McBride (Rory Keenan), a big city Dubliner who seems to be the exact opposite of Boyle: idealistic, naive, well-intentioned and earnest. In an unusual occurrence a dead John Doe with a bullet through the brain and mysterious circumstances is discovered on McBride’s first day on the job.
It’s only after FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) shows up on a manhunt for four international drug dealers, complicating Boyle’s simple and decadent life even further, that Boyle is able to ID his John Doe murder victim as one of the four men the FBI is hunting. Filling the role of the fish out of water, Cheadle is constantly harassed, race-baited, and flummoxed by the unorthodox (and racist) Boyle. But it’s not long before the two men, clearly in admiration of the other, have to join forces to face the nihilistic and delightfully dark drug (and death) dealing trio.
While part Beverly Hills Cop and part Pulp Fiction (yes, the dialogue is that sharp at times), The Guard is obviously derivative but still fresh with deep roots in the Western, a fact that is accentuated by director John Michael McDonagh’s choice of Calexico to provide the score, their mariachi-inspired trumpet and guitar sound providing a southwestern flair comparable to that of Sergio Leone spaghetti western. As well, Gleeson’s loner Boyle has the perfect Western hero combination of depravity and rough edges to go along with his stoic moral center.
And Boyle is a character that stays with you in a number of ways. While his racist banter is jarring, ultimately there’s something noble underneath the (very thick) debauched outer shell. Likewise Cheadle brings an understated gravitas to his character and the rapport between Boyle and Everett is a joy to behold (although subtitles would have been warranted to help viewers understand much of the heavily accented Irish banter). By the time the smoke cleared and the credits rolled, I was sitting in my seat wishing for more time with these memorable characters.