Some are comparing The Guard to the critically acclaimed In Bruges from 2008.
Martin McDonagh — the brother of this writer/director — did it and it also starred Brendan Gleeson. While both are good films and feature the lower side of life, the comparison really isn’t fair. The Guard is a good movie on its own and the comparisons really aren’t necessary.
A deadpan Gleeson and an even more deadpan Don Cheadle team up as the two main characters. Gleeson is a small-town Irish cop. He’s a bit of a loose cannon who could not care less about the drug smugglers tracked to the shores of Ireland by Cheadle’s FBI agent.
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He has other things on his mind: a dying mom, avoiding work and threesomes with attractive prostitutes.
Unable to mask his disdain for Cheadle’s uptight Wendell Everett, Gleeson’s Sgt. Gerry Boyle is ordered to cooperate in the hunt for the smugglers. He does and he doesn’t. Boyle does, however, get very interested when one of his colleagues is murdered.
It’s the does and the doesn’t about The Guard that gives it depth, dimension and humor. While Cheadle is a skilled actor and always very good, the film belongs to the eccentric and very funny Gleeson.
Those that haunt art houses know a lot about Gleeson’s work. Most readers don’t and only know him as Mad Eye Moody from the Harry Potter films.
Gleeson is — as always — fabulous and very funny. On the surface his character is shallow, lazy and inept. Dig a little and he's a deep, troubled man and a formidable enemy.
Cheadle (Iron Man 2, Oceans Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen) again proves to be one of Hollywood’s great straight men. He’s uptight, focused and frustrated.
Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, The Guard is one of the year’s funniest and most fun foreign flicks. McDonagh packs the film with quirky characters. The kid on the bicycle and his relationship to Gleeson’s cop is fun, as is the dialogue and relationship of the gangsters smuggling in the drugs.
By the way, look for another great performance from the always excellent Mark Strong (Green Lantern) and a nice, short bit of work from Fionnula Flanagan.
And the film includes the year’s best scratch-your-head ending. Don’t miss this one.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for mature themes, violence and language. It opens today at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.