It’s impossible to talk about The Guard without mentioning In Bruges: both involve Brendan Gleeson in pitch-black comedy territory, both are directed by one of the McDonagh brothers and both are destined to become classics of the cult variety. However The Guard deserves to talked about on its own merits, as it’s truly in a league of its own.
Gleeson is on fine form as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, the most unorthodox policeman ever to grace celluloid. Swearing, taking drugs, frequenting prostitutes, more swearing. At times, you’d imagine the film could’ve been called Bad Feckin’ Lieutenant, that’s how un-policeman-like Boyle is. When Don Cheadle's honest FBI man arrives investigating a massive drug trafficking ring, the foundations are laid for an unlikely double act. It may not sound much, but The Guard is one of the funniest films of the last few years.
Similar to last years Black Dynamite, The Guard will no doubt become endlessly quoted and referenced by nearly everyone who sees it. The banter, especially between Boyle and Cheadle’s Wendell Everett, is pin-sharp, flying thick and fast, hitting every target. Whilst in In Bruges, Gleeson played the straight man, here the roles are reversed with Cheadle inverting the trope of the wise-cracking black cop of so many buddy movies past by playing the straight-laced straight man with Gleeson getting to play the maverick with undeniable glee. Critics of the film (if such people exist) will argue about character arcs, brevity and the like, but for a decidely un-PC black comedy such as this, such things aren’t really neccesary.
It’s hard to review the film without wanting to just spew the best lines back out to you (“I don’t know what street you buy your cocaine on, but it certainly isn’t the street I buy my cocaine on” and “They’re always fuckin’ overestimatin’! Like fuckin’ Orwell!” being my two favourites), but Gleeson gives an awards-worthy performance, Cheadle has his first noteworthy role in years and Mark Strong pops up yet again (I swear I’ve seen Mark Strong more times than I have my girlfriend recently) as a rather philosphical baddie. The Guard is simply an unexpected delight, but judging by the amount of f-bombs dropped, not one to recommend to the old members of your family.