Cut from very much the same cloth as In Bruges, The Guard simultaneously feels both welcomingly familiar and delightfully humorous. Despite its obvious shared focus on dark humour and sharp, witty dialogue this lazy, albeit complimentary comparison only acts as a disservice to a film which impressively manages to mould its own unique identity out of an increasingly formulaic genre.
Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) of the Galway Garda is not your conventional police officer. Indeed, this fact becomes instantly apparent during the opening scenes of the film where we accompany this bungling cop on a callout. It’s here amongst the wreckage of a recent traffic incident that we first encounter Boyle’s morally dubious approach to law enforcement. As he frisks the bodies of this tragic accidents casulties he nonchalantly pockets a stash of hallucinogenic drugs in what perfectly sets the tone for this hilarious story set against the backdrop of a jovially backwards community and the contentious behaviour of its loveably wayward protagonist.
Boyle soon finds his quiet little parish has become a bustling centre of attention after the investigation of a murder with ‘occult overtones’ escalates far beyond his jurisdiction - leading to a FBI investigation into a huge cocaine smuggling operation rumoured to take place just off the this sleepy towns coastline. Straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) is given the arduous task of organising this operation and soon finds himself paired up with Boyle in an irregular working relationship which on the surface seems a bizarrely inappropriate collaboration.
This gloriously enjoyable film truly belongs to Glesson. Whether he’s indulging himself with prostitutes and narcotics, evolving himself in racially fuelled disputes with Cheadle or comforting his dying mother, it becomes near impossible not to be left completely spellbound by this tour-de force performance.
Director and screenwriter John McDonagh, (here making his feature length debut) is of course also due some of the praise for this remarkable film, as without his whimsical, yet touching dialogue this otherwise generic action-comedy hybrid would surely have failed to deviate from the usual stigmas which so often plague this awkward amalgamation of two such high octane genres.
McDonagh’s shift of the attention to the Character of Boyle, and occasionally his peculiar but no less engrossing relationship with Everett creates an admirably loveable movie that whilst incredibly well executed feels almost completely improvised, a fact which only adds to the film’s charming appeal. Jammed full of memorable one-liners and endearing laugh out loud scenes, this vivacious and unforgettable comedies uncomplicated facade, hides a much deeper and enjoyable movie than you’ll be forgiven for not expecting.