During our screening on Monday night there was a power cut and the screening was almost abandoned by venue staff with just twenty minutes left of the film. Despite the need to get home and hide from the riots our fellow critics protested and we got to see how the film ended. In a city with shops burning to the ground it takes a film of a certain quality to keep critics trapped in a Soho basement while the apocalypse is brewing outside.
The Guard in question is Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), an unorthodox Irish Policeman who has little respect for the rules of policing, a penchant for prostitutes and yet is the least corrupt officer in the force. When FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) comes to Ireland to intercept a drug smuggling ring, Boyle and Everett team up and Boyle proves himself to be more useful than expected.
Don’t be mistaken though, this is not a buddy cop comedy. Yes, there is a hint of buddy cops but this truly is Gleeson’s film. Boyle is in 95% of scenes and is the character we get to know in intimate detail. Gleeson easily leads the film, setting the dark tone of deadpan humour early on and earning our sympathy through even his most questionable actions.
Don Cheadle’s is definitely a supporting role but manages to turn his character from the typical hard-nosed fish-out-of-water FBI agent, if such a thing exists, and brings a warmth and humanity to Everett. Not that he isn’t a little lacking in a sense of humour at first, but his character has layers, like an onion… or Shrek. I’ve never been a huge fan of Don Cheadle’s work, (no, not even Hotel for Dogs) but he’s finally won me over.
The Guard is hilarious without being obvious and touching without being schmaltzy. Debut writer/director John Michael McDonagh has crafted a real treat here, 96 minutes of quality cinema to rival his brother’s In Bruges. Back in February we speculated that, “it’s either a crime thriller or a farcical comedy” but in reality it is neither of these and all the better for it. Witty and unique, it’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying The Guard.
The Guard is on limited release 19th August and is awesome.