The Guard is a conventional, very formulaic buddy cop movie that’s been transported from the harsh streets of L.A. or Detroit to the deceptively quiet countryside of Ireland. I was hoping it would become something more, but about halfway through, a feeling of disappointment came over me.
The film has all the usual, necessary components of a crime thriller: drugs, interrogations, guns, a climactic gunfight, and so on. And it has a pair of terrific leading men. What it lacks is innovation and wit. And consistent laughs.
The paper-thin plot unfolds like so. Tough-as-nails policeman Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) investigates a murder that looks to be the work of an occultist. It’s soon revealed, though, that the killing may be connected to an ongoing drug-smuggling operation in County Galway. Because it’s an international matter, the FBI is sent to lend a hand. Enter Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), a straight-faced, resourceful agent and former Rhodes Scholar. Naturally, he’s teamed with Boyle, and when the two aren’t sitting in awkward silence because of some naive racism the latter has spewed out, they’re working to bring crime to an end. Just not on Boyle’s day off. That’s reserved for hookers and pints of beer.
Gleeson and Cheadle are both splendid, as expected. Gleeson delivers his profanity-laced dialogue with deadpan effectiveness, and Cheadle’s reactions are impeccably timed. Their discussion in a squad car about family, work, and Disneyland (yeah, you read right) is easily the best scene in the film.
They’re just not given strong material to work with. John Michael McDonagh, the writer and director, relies so heavily on the shock value of Boyle’s words that after a while, nothing he says really surprises. He’s sort of like the party guest who tells the same joke a thousand times and still expects folks to enjoy it.
The Guard also suffers from having villains that are so generic, they might as well be wearing employee tags specifying their duties. There’s the ruthless businessman (Liam Cunningham), the quiet badass who waxes philosophical (Mark Strong), and the wide-eyed psychopath with the mind of a child (David Wilmot). Not one of the three says or does anything out of the ordinary. They’re carbon copies of past baddies.
Ultimately, The Guard’s failure must be attributed to its weak premise. It gives us plenty of political incorrectness and coarse language but thinks that’s enough to sustain laughter and intrigue.
What’s the big f***ing deal? C