In Review: The Guard (DVD)

By Maryann O’Connor

Garda Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) was just minding his own slightly shady business in a remote part of West Ireland when he gets a new partner, transferred from the bright lights of Dublin and suddenly a man turns up dead with some bible pages in his mouth.

Boyle is not the usual stereotype of a small town sergeant: his superiors find him difficult, he uses prostitutes and is prepared to turn a blind eye to some small-time criminal activity as long as no one’s getting hurt. When FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) arrives to brief Galway’s finest on a shipment of drugs which is currently sailing over the Atlantic, Boyle is interested but not completely committed to helping find the participants in this particular drug smuggling ring. The fella who just transferred from Dublin goes missing and Boyle assures his wife that he’ll probably turn up because it’s not Limerick. However, things escalate from there and the unwitting Guard has no choice but to get involved.

Gleeson (In Bruges) is razor-sharp as Boyle, continually challenging Everett’s views on what a small town Irish law-enforcer should be. Everyone is in on the wit and fast-paced story; the drug-smuggling ring, Boyle’s mother, the local IRA contact (comedian Pat Shortt) and even a little boy who appears everywhere on his bike (still sporting its stabilisers) dragging his dog with him.  The opening scene sets the standard for the entire film, breathtaking shots of the picturesque west coast and young lads driving too fast round empty roads. You might expect an opening like that but you won’t expect anything from then on.

The humour is great and non-stop but just as good is the commitment to challenging the usual film stereotypes; namely that the good guys are all good and the bad guys are all bad. Most people are a bit of both, even drug smugglers. The only character which lets the film down at times is FBI agent Everett. He is the only one sticking to his stereotype, namely that of stupid American and FBI agent. The drug smugglers are a good triple act, comprising of Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot and Mark Strong as the token Englishman to take the butt of the obligatory English-related jokes. The scenes between Boyle and his terminally ill mother are touching and humorous, still concentrating on the good things in life despite the situation.

The Guard, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, is extremely philosophical and witty. In short, it’s a very Irish film. I could compare it to Hot Fuzz but that would be doing it a great disservice, they are very different films.

DVD extras include a short film – The Second Death – starring Liam Cunningham, along with the usual outtakes and deleted scenes.

Maryann has awarded The Guard five Torches of Truth

One response to “In Review: The Guard (DVD)

  1. Well, at the risk of invoking Father Ted, I would say that you probably always have to have one ‘straight’ character to play the laughs off – the danger of saying that is that, although Dougal is often the obvious foil, so is Ted to his often blatant weirdness, so, to that extent, they switch the role between them, with a very often well-crafted script.

    Which fits in here, because there is another well-crafted script: what is at the root of it here is that Boyle has been where Everett comes from (and has travelled – Everett is sceptical, thinking that he might be being taken for a ride, but that is not a US stereotype, which is that of taking things at face value), but Everett does not know his territory.

    I don’t honestly think that Everett is stupid, it’s just that Boyle is sharp – and not only is Everett surprised that he is, but we are, cleverly revealing our prejudices, at the same time as we are enjoying the craic.

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