Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Written by:John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningam, Rory Keenan
Released: August 25, 2011
Grade: A-

Brendan Gleeson’s performance in The Guard will be remembered as one of the best of 2011.  There’s no doubt about it.  It’ll be hard work mounting an award campaign given (1) the film’s limited release in the United States and (2) the fact that it’s a comedy, but I still hope that he will receive his due.

Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a disenchanted police officer from a small Irish town.  If you think he’s going to spring into action following the discovery of a murder… then think again.  Boyle doesn’t really care.  He takes drugs from the victim for his own use and he seemingly has no interest in protecting evidence at the crime scene.

It turns out the murder is linked to a massive drug ring that has attracted the attention of the FBI.  They’ve flown Agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle) over to Ireland to help intercept the cocaine shipment and apprehend those responsible.  He plans on using the knowledge and expertise of the local authorities to help get the job done.

Boyle and Everett end up working together on the case and as you’d expect, they’re as different as chalk and cheese.  Agent Everett is the consummate professional who likes doing things by the book in a diligent fashion.  Sergeant Boyle is a politically incorrect bigot with no concern for anyone else but himself.  At a police briefing, Boyle publically expresses his shock when he sees photos of the suspects.  The reason?  He “thought only black lads were drug dealers.”

What’s so great about the screenplay is that you’ve never quite sure what to make of Sergeant Boyle.  He is a complete moron who has no idea what he’s saying?  Or is he somewhat more astute?  Does he like flying under the radar and pushing people’s buttons.  My opinion changed numerous times throughout the film.

Gleeson deserves rapturous acclaim for his performance but just as worthy is the film’s writer-director John Michael McDonagh.  He’s the guy who put pen to paper and came up with this iconic character.  You could make a strong argument that talent his hereditary given that his younger brother, Martin, crafted the equally witty black comedy In Bruges (released in late 2008).   

The film’s only weakness (and I come at this from an Australian perspective) are the very thick Irish accents.  It’s hard to understand what the characters are saying at times and I definitely missed some of the jokes.  I’ll have to make sure I pick this up on DVD in a few months.  The rewind button will come in handy.