Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Friday, 26 August 2011

Film Review: The Guard

The Gleeson Effect Strikes Again


Director and Screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and Fionnula Flanagan
Plot: Sergeant Gerry Boyle is an unconventional police officer. Sweary, durg-abusing and hooker-using, he can build up quite a rap-sheet of his own, but he is also an honest cop in a quiet rural Irish setting. A murder is discovered just as a major FBI drug-smuggling investigation moves into the area, but in an area of bent coppers, Boyle is the only one who sets about investigating.
Rating: 15


I’m trying hard to recall when I first saw Brendan Gleeson. A brief look at his IMDb page reveals that it must have been in Troy. That was a largely forgettable film, but I remember him in it. Indeed, that is a feature of the many films which Gleeson has appeared in over the last few years. Some of them have been memorable, but even when they have been disappointing, Gleeson’s work has always persisted.

You would not think him a natural movie star. With all due respect (and a lot of respect is due), he is not the best looking of men, but his face is distinctive, looking as he does only slightly fresher than haggard, but with a glint in his eyes which can do so much through so little.

One of the very best of his recent films was In Bruges, an almost certifiable Irish gangster comedy about two gangster’s trapped in a purgatorial trip to Belgium after a job gone wrong. Colin Farrell had all the love scenes, and Ralph Fiennes had most of the swearing, but it was Gleeson’s film, and it demonstrated his excellent acting, as well as his strange charm and abilities to carry a film and make even the most depraved anti-heroes instantaneously likeable. And, he was hilarious.

That charm, that hilarity and even the depravity from Martin McDonagh’s film are all present in Gleeson’s latest incarnation, in John Michael McDonagh (Martin’s brother)’s film, The Guard, and Gleeson absolutely rules the show here, being eminently watchable, entertaining and effective.

The film itself is a fairly run-of-the-mill police-film-cum-buddy-comedy. Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is a quiet rural cop investigating a murder, when he is lumbered with a slick FBI agent, Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) who is investigating a drugs deal. The pair are initially at odds, but Everett comes round to Boyle because he is right more often than not. Think In Bruges meets Gran Torino meets The French Connection. In short, there will be very few surprises with the plot.

However, it is brutally funny, with the list of quotes being highly amusing and, no doubt, instantly classic. Most of the laughs come in the first hour, but they slowly fade a little, without ever going away entirely. What take their place is the road to the inevtiable conclusion of the plot, and an increasing emphasis on the well-drawn and well-played characters. The strong cast has no weak link, and includes Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham and Fionnula Flanagan, who plays Boyle’s equally irreverent mother, in a carefully done subplot. In fact, at all times the film avoids being crass and never resorts to clich├ęs.

The success of the film therefore is down to its core strength – good writing, good cast and well made – but, the fact that it shall be remembered for a long time, and it will be, is down to Gleeson’s tour-de-force. It is his well-worn but brilliant face which lingers in the memory, but this time, unlike Troy, it carries with it the memories of a really good film.


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