THE GUARD. Starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Fionnula Flanagan and David Wilmot. Directed by John Michael McDonagh. Rated MA 15+ (Strong coarse language and violence). 96 minutes.
A good opportunity for Brendan Gleeson to strut his stuff. And that is what he does as Gerry Boyle, a member of the Garda in Connemara. He is really a small fish in a small pond. But that does not take away anything from his sense of duty, his pride in his uniform, his shrewdness in administering the law. But, he is not pompous, though he does have a bit of a superiority complex.
Life is ordinary for him. While he lives alone, he cares for his mother (a salty-tongued performance from Fionnulla Flanagan), ribs his new assistant from Dublin, is cheeky to his superior officers, is not against visiting prostitutes in Galway from whom he catches a sexually transmitted disease. When he discovers a corpse and connects it with a drug running gang, he sets to work, especially when his assistant disappears.
But, the FBI has been called in in the form of Don Cheadle. He is the ultra-serious, suited agent who lacks a sense of humour, which puts him at odds with Gerry Boyle. Gerry, of course, takes pride in taking the mickey out of the Yank.
The trouble for the FBI agent is that, concerning the drug delivery, he is wrong and Gerry is right.
Writer-director John Michael McDonagh (who wrote the screenplay for the 2002 Ned Kelly) says that Gerry Boyle is a figure out of the Westerns. And this how the showdown occurs, even though it is at night on a pier on the coast, Gerry confidently striding out like every screen sheriff, guns blazing, bullets missing him, confronting the villains and sending them off to the next world. The FBI agent is his back-up.
While the idea of Gerry as a Western sheriff is entertaining, it is the dialogue and the humour that make The Guard entertaining. Naturally, there is a lot of swearing (seems an Irish custom) but there is a great deal of wit and deadpan humour which makes it quite an enjoyable portrait of a 21st century Irish garda.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out August 25 2011.