FBI agent duels with brogue cop
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Aug 12, 2011
Everyone loved "The Guard" at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and it's easy to see why. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson delivers a gracefully witty star turn as a Connemara cop who becomes embroiled in a scheme to scuttle a huge cocaine delivery.
But all thoughts of benevolent, rosy-cheeked community helpers should be banished: Gleeson's Gerry Boyle, while hewing to a strict personal moral code, isn't averse to dipping into the powdered evidence once in a while, and he has an off-hours penchant for hookers and hard partying.
Jerry's ideas of fun, not to mention his politically incorrect observations of human nature, don't jibe with those of Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), the American FBI agent who has arrived to orchestrate the takedown. Even if American viewers may need subtitles to navigate the thicket of burrs and brogues, "The Guard" still offers a steady stream of alternately tough and sweet humor, delivered by first-time writer-director John Michael McDonagh (brother of "In Bruges's" Martin) with a bright, poppy color palette and whiz-bang politico-cultural references (MI-5, Iraq, Waco).
One part "Local Hero" and one part "Pulp Fiction," "The Guard" is admittedly derivative. But it provides an antic, profanely playful addition to the goofy, hard-boiled genre Quentin Tarantino helped launch, adding such stylish flourishes as a mariachi-Morricone-inflected score by the great Tucson band Calexico. Hip, lurid and improbably lovable, "The Guard" is easily the best guy-love comedy of the summer, with Cheadle and Gleeson's riffs and repartee tumbling back and forth as if they've been trading lies over Guinness forever. (And keep a look out for such stellar supporting players as Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan and Pat Shortt.) "The Guard" himself may be no angel, but his movie is a wee slice of heaven.
Contains pervasive profanity, some violence, drug material and sexual content.