The Guard (2011)

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There’s a smart, funny buddy movie out there starring Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter’s Mad-Eye Moody), written and directed by a guy called McDanagh, but The Guard isn’t it. The Guard wants to be In Bruges, that 2008 film starring Gleeson and written/directed by Martin McDanagh, oh how it wants to be, but the comparisons promptly end with its star and writer-director credits.
     Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (note the slightly different spelling), the tired, puerile, and all-too-obvious The Guard posits Gleeson and Don Cheadle as, respectively, an eccentric Irish policemen and an African American FBI narcotics agent who reluctantly team up to bust a band of international drug traffickers (well, a mostly Irish gang augmented by a snide Brit). I mention Wendell Everett’s (Cheadle) ethnicity because Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is, at heart, a blue-blooded racist and it’s the leads’ combustible “getting along” that attempts to provide the film with its, ahem, “black” humor.
     Humor my (mad) eye. McDonagh’s script is an embarrassment; laughable, yes, but in all the wrong ways. The score stinks too.
     The best parts of the film for me are the few-and-far-between scenes featuring Boyle and his terminally-ill mother, played by the veteran Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan. In contrast to the stupidity and banality going on around them, their relationship is a sweet and affecting thing, one clearly built on love and genuine respect. Would that The Guard focused more on Gerry and Eileen and less on the cops and robbers stuff. But then it wouldn’t have been the rollicking, fish-out-of-water comedy it aspires to be, delivered with the every-other-word-the-f-bomb relish of a David Mamet wannabe (but without Mamet’s wit, acidity, or lyrical timing).
     If you’re looking for a quirky Irish import starring Brendan Gleeson then Netflix I Went Down. Or, again, ‘Bruges (which is an Irish thing to say since that film has nothing to do with the Emerald Isle even if it does showcase the typically fine Irishman). But skip The Guard. Gleeson’s best (wordless) reaction is in his very first close-up, and it’s downhill from there.


(c) 2011 David N. Butterworth
butterworthdavidn@gmail.com