Three drug-dealers are planning to land half a billion dollars’ worth of cocaine off the west coast of Ireland. The only men standing in their way are a straight-laced FBI Agent Everett (Don Cheadle) and a hard-living Galway Guard (Brendan Gleeson).  A riotous buddy comedy that could only be made in Ireland, it rightly netted Gleeson an Oscar nomination.

 

 

4
Potty-mouthed perfection.

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Brendan Gleeson’s inevitable march towards Oscar’s podium has taken a few great big f***ing leaps forward thanks to John Michael McDonagh’s foul-mouthed, feisty, utterly lovable small-town cops’n’robbers caper, The Guard.

As Sergeant Gerry Boyle, the unshakable, irrepressible 'sheriff’ of an Irish seaside port, Gleeson barely breaks a sweat in his dealings with an FBI operative (Don Cheadle), paired prostitutes (Dominique McElligott and Sarah Greene), a top-tier drug-runner (Liam Cunningham) and his musclemen (Rory Keenan and Mark Strong), or with his own saucy, terminally-ill mum (Fionnula Flannagan).

Director John Michael is the brother of Martin McDonagh, whose own script for the similarly smashing crime-comedy In Bruges (2008) was Oscar-nominated. Truth be told, older sibling John Michael’s melancholic paean to Gaelic toughness is every bit as perfect as his brother’s work; for many, the warmth and final-act emotionality will provide an even greater character-driven coda to the good-guy/bad-guy goings-on.

From Strong’s philosophical hitman (who dominates the screen and a big percentage of the script’s dark laughs) to child actor Michael Og Lane’s pivotal role as smart-mouthed ragamuffin, The Guard is peopled by eccentrics both large and small, and is that rare film which finds resonance in both its genre plotting (Brit drug-barons trafficking through derelict rural ports) and its depth of character.

Certainly, audiences will be hard-pressed to find a better onscreen chemistry this year than that which exists between Gleeson’s sheriff and Cheadle’s agent Wendell Everett. The pair’s initial meeting, during which Gleeson unloads a gentle barrage of racist assumptions about Americans in general and African-Americans in particular, could be the best meet-cute moment this year; it is certainly the funniest. Cheadle continues his rather odd love-affair with all things limey after Brit-inspired turns opposite George Clooney in the Oceans films, but as long as scripts this good keep coming his way from across The Pond, who can blame him for snapping them up.

The Guard is Gleeson’s film, frame-for-frame. On screen for the vast majority of the 96-minute running time, his vivid characterisation plays like a larger-than-life hero from the cinema of yesteryear; imagine a smart-mouth, immoral, Irish John Wayne and you’ll get some measure of how commanding Gleeson is in the role. This is despite his character’s predilection for boozing, keeping the drugs he confiscates for his own use, and generally disrespecting all about him, save his dying mum. It is a credit to the actor’s gruff affability that such a fallen figure as Gerry Boyle could keep audience sympathy onside, let alone emerge as a great screen good-guy.

McDonagh’s script is peppered with crudities, but they are delivered with such perfect nuance and timing one leaves the cinema dying to utter 'F*** off!" in an Irish brogue. This all-consuming sense of time and place is one of the many joys of The Guard, a superbly-made buddy-cop crowd-pleaser that exudes an effortless dark charm and wicked sense of humour.

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Details

MA15+
1 hour 36 min
In Cinemas 25 August 2011,
Thu, 12/22/2011 - 11