By the time you get half way through The Guard, (Reprisal Films, 2011), roughly about the rather contrived scene involving our quixotically indifferent yet exuberant main character, Brendan Gleeson as Sargent Gerry Boyle, two prostitutes and a hotel room stalked with boudoir-appropriate edible delights you get a distinct notion of where this is going and how it is likely to end. While the general tropes of comedic, buddy cop films are redundant and predictive, that does not mean that the progressive journey is a boring one.
Directed by John Michael McDonagh, whom you may remember as being to Ned Kelly (2003) as, say, David Fincher was to Alien 3 (1992)*, The Guard does not seem to struggle with directorial vision or erstwhile hindrances that bogged down Mr. McDonagh’s previous writing endeavor. This is perhaps to be attributed to the previously mentioned familiarity within the genre, or more likely because Mr. McDonagh has gotten his feet wet with first-hand knowledge of the industry. It is both unfortunate and somewhat deceiving that the opening scene sets the thematic tone for our main character by exhibiting the most gut-busting comedy in the entire film, wherein showing that death can be, and most certainly is quite funny.
Enter details involving an international drug smuggling operation, being investigated by FBI agent Wendell Everett, played by Don Cheadle, run by one Clive Cornell, perpetual bad guy Mark Strong, which has incidentally found its travel route smack through Sargent Boyle’s jurisdiction, Galway, Ireland. As is expected in, let’s say all cop movies, confrontational issues of territorial redress are, well, addressed, and in some ways are blushingly funny for those who do not have sensitive proclivities toward racial humor, especially as it allows an American audience to smuggly dismiss it as the antagonist in this particular instance is a small-town Irishman.
You can go on about the plot in further detail, but that would be to assign it a status of which it cannot achieve in its presented form: importance. While we do not exactly know whether or not Sargent Boyle is exactly what he seems, we do know that he is a fabulous shot when aiming a gun from his crotch. A mutually beneficial, yet unspoken agreement between the two protagonists is struck only when there really is no other reason to contrive for them not to come to this conclusion, and the denouement is both satisfying and entertaining, if not entirely engaging. Though The Guard does tend to be a raucously good time within its own limited structure of making do with what it has, it will not likely go down in the annals of film history as anything other than exactly that.
The Guard is currently playing at Denver’s Mayan Theater, and is rated R.
*This article originally implied that John Michael McDonagh directed the film Ned Kelly; indeed he did not, that film was directed by Gregor Jordan, but the sentiment stands.