Here’s an understatement: Brendan Gleeson is one of the most reliable and enjoyable actors working today. I have trouble recalling a film he didn’t steal. Needless to say, he kills in The Guard, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh. Gleeson stars as Boyle, the outrageously politically-incorrect policeman working in a small Irish village; he makes no secret of his predilection for scarlet women and recreational drug use, but he’s left well enough alone because dammit he gets the job done.
When a dead body linked to a drug smuggling ring winds up in Boyle’s jurisdiction, American FBI agent Everett (Don Cheadle) turns up to take over the case. The fed soon discovers, however, he’ll need the help of the wily – and kinda racist – Irishman to take on the villainous drug dealers and murderers (the pitch-perfect trio of Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham and David Wilmot).
Yes, the premise screams Lethal Weapon meets Hot Fuzz (which was itself something of a Lethal Weapon spoof), but McDonagh knows precisely what he’s doing here. His script is razor sharp; almost every line a killer. Gleeson and Cheadle’s charming odd couple chemistry is good enough to forgive their clichéd coupling. Gleeson’s performance, in fact, is something of a wonder; he fully embraces his character’s increasing outrageousness, yet never makes him seem unbelievable (him sipping a milkshake while staring down one of the killers is a highlight).
The film falters when it gets into the somber philosophising that was done so much better in McDonough’s brother Martin’s film In Bruges. Still, that movie was primarily a drama, and this one is absolutely a comedy. One of the funniest of the year, no question.
The Guard arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia December 22, 2011.