The Guard (2000)
“The FBI are about to discover that things work a little different around here.”
The Guard (2011)
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong
Synopsis: An unorthodox Irish policeman with a confrontational personality is partnered with an up-tight F.B.I. agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring.
Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart, Edge of Tomorrow) is Gerry Boyle, an ageing Irish cop. He’s an unconventional Irish cop though, and is the embodiment of the conflicting capacity for good and bad in all of us in the way he thinks nothing of stealing drugs from the pockets of a dead joy-rider and playing sex games with hookers on his day off, while also appearing to be the only incorruptible cop on his West Irish force. His gruff nature also disguises a sharp intelligence which gives him an advantage over those who think they are above him. One of these people is FBI agent Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Traitor), a by-the-numbers suit who is shocked by Boyle’s disrespect during his introductory briefing (‘I’m Irish,’ says Boyle in his defence. ‘Sure, racism is part of my culture.’)
The Guard appears to be a kind of requiem for a dying breed of tough, uncompromising men who yield to no-one, and subsequently earn the grudging respect of those around them irrespective of how badly they misbehave when they’re not fighting the bad guys. In this film, the bad guys are a trio of philosophical drug smugglers, each of whom is fully aware of the character deficiencies that make them what they are. This kind of frank self-knowledge is something they share with Boyle, but the fact that they choose to embrace those deficiencies for their own gain sets them apart from the policeman.
Boyle is ultimately a likable character and Gleeson, with a curt and weary indifference that invites our empathy while side-stepping the mistakes that would have made his character a subject of pity, inhabits the role perfectly. Cheadle is the straight man, and gives an adequate performance that could really have been filled by anybody (although, of course, the producers have to keep one eye on the American market). Liam Cunningham (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Centurion), Mark Strong (Blood, Welcome to the Punch) and David Wilmot (’71) also give memorable performances as the three drug smugglers who stray onto Boyle’s patch.
(Reviewed 20th February 2012)