Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Guard (2011 film)

Written and directed by John Michael McDonough, The Guard is the story of an eccentric Garda who teams up with a FBI agent to take on an international drug smuggling gang in Ireland. The film explores two different men with two different methods as they uncover murder and corruption where they become an unlikely team. Starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Fionnula Flanagan, and Mark Strong. The Guard is an engaging and very whimsical black comedy from John Michael McDonough.

Despite not being a totally honest Garda, Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is still a man who manages to get the job done as he works with a new Garda from Dublin named McBride (Rory Keenan) to investigate a murder. Though Boyle’s unconventional tactics gets results done, he is considered by superiors to be too odd as Boyle is becoming concerned with the ailing health of his mother Eileen (Fionnula Flanagan). When a FBI agent named Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) is asked to lead an investigation over an international drug smuggling case, Boyle’s unintended racial remarks gets Everett’s attention where the two reluctantly teams up in the investigation.

When McBride goes missing as his Croatian wife Gabriela (Katarina Cas) asks Boyle for help, he makes a discovery about McBride’s car on his day off where he believes something isn’t right. Notably as Everett is going after a drug lord named Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (Liam Cunningham) and his British partner Clive Cornell (Mark Strong) along with their hired gun Liam O’Leary (David Wilmot). When Boyle has a meeting with Sheehy-Skeffington who tries to bribe him, Boyle makes a startling discovery about the police force realizing he’s got little allies to aid him. After discovering what happened to McBride as Everett has to return home, Boyle decides to take matters into own hands to fight off Sheehy-Skeffington and his gang.

The film is simply the story of a Garda and a FBI agent who team up to uncover a series of murders that involves an international drug smuggling gang in a small Irish district of Connemara Gaeltacht. While the idea of teaming up with a straight-laced FBI agent from Kenosha, Wisconsin who comes from a privilege background with a very strange Garda who likes to take a bit of drugs, do silly things, and sleep with hookers is a strange one. Writer/director John Michael McDonough some how makes it work because the character of Sgt. Gerry Boyle is a very unique character. Despite his vices and somewhat simple views on the world, Boyle is actually a guy who is a lot smarter than people think he is. He knows how to get an investigation going by his own instincts, he is a bit more honest with people, and can get the job done.

The fact that Boyle is also a flawed character makes him more endearing as he is someone who adores his mother as he’s trying to take care of her in a retirement center. Notably in one key scene where the two out to a pub to hear live music where Boyle admits that he’s not a good person but his mother prefers to pretend that he is. It is that key relationship that grounds Boyle as it would help him aid someone like Everett who is incorruptible and both realize that the people they’re facing isn’t just drug lords but also the people that is supposed to aid them in the investigation. Boyle may be a man with vices and a somewhat dishonest Garda but there’s some things he wouldn’t do because he knows it isn’t right.

McDonough’s direction is truly thrilling from the way he opens the film with four young men in a car driving fast and listening to hip-hop as they pass Boyle and crash while Boyle just simply watches the car pass by him and then drives to the scene. It is presented in such an understated manner where there isn’t a lot to tell as it just establishes who Boyle is while the rest of the film is a unique mix of a buddy-cop film with some quirky humor and some dark comedy that involves the drug smuggling gang. McDonough’s compositions are quite striking as he shoots them on location in Connemara and parts of Dublin to add to the world that Boyle knows. Overall, McDonough creates a well-crafted and enjoyable black comedy that is funny, suspenseful, and heartwarming.

Cinematographer Larry Smith does amazing work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography from the grey-colored look of the rainy exterior locations to some amazing evening shots as well as more stylish interiors for the places Boyle and Everett hang out at. Editor Chris Gill does excellent work with the editing to create unique rhythms for some of the film‘s violent moments along with stylish works in a few transitional jump-cuts to help the film move at a brisk pace. Production designer John Patrick Kelly and art director Lucy van Lonkhuyzen do brilliant work with the set pieces such as the pub that Boyle and Everett drink at as well as Boyle‘s home that is filled with all sorts of records and such.

Costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh does terrific work with the costumes from the uniforms that Boyle wears to the suits a lot of the men wear including Everett. Sound designer Niall Brady does wonderful work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the pubs as well the intimacy in some scenes such as O’Leary’s confrontation with Boyle. The film’s music by Calexico is a major highlight of the film as its Morricone-inspired score is filled with dazzling arrangements of Mariachi horns, trotting rhythms, and all sorts of playful themes to help intensify some of the film‘s suspenseful moments. Music supervisor Liz Gallacher does a superb job with the film’s soundtrack by creating a wide mix of musical styles that feature Irish folk music as well as pieces by N.E.R.D., Chet Baker, and John Denver.

The casting by Jina Jay is incredible for the ensemble that is created as there are some memorable small performances from Rory Keenan as Boyle’s new partner McBride, Michael Og Lane as the young bike rider Eugene who aids Boyle in finding evidence, Sarah Greene and Dominique McElligott as a couple of hookers Boyle likes to have fun with, Pat Shortt as an arms expert Boyle knows, and Gary Lydon as the chief inspector Gerry Stanton. David Wilmot is very good as the witty hitman Liam O’Leary while Katarina Cas is superb as McBride’s wife Gabriela. Fionnula Flanagan is a joy to watch as Gerry’s mother Eileen who always brings a lot of spark to her role in the way she curses and how she wants some drugs just to make the retirement home more fun. Liam Cunningham is great as crime boss Francis Sheehy-Skeffington who tries to keep things low while trying to bribe Boyle so trouble wouldn’t happen.

Mark Strong is excellent as the brutish Clive Cornell who is the only English character in the film as he tries to deal with all of the chaos that is happening while wanting to maintain a professionalism in the job. Don Cheadle is marvelous as the straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett who finds himself in a very different world while dealing with someone as unorthodox like Boyle as Cheadle does amazing work in playing the straight man to the Boyle character. Finally, there’s Brendan Gleeson in an outstanding performance as Sgt. Gerry Boyle where it’s easily a role that only he can play. There’s a great wit and charisma that Gleeson displays as well as something that is heartfelt in his scenes with Flanagan while the scenes with Cheadle has him being restrained in his approach to the humor. Gleeson is the star of the film and what a way he seizes the moment and creates a character that is as loveable as Gerry Boyle.

The Guard is a delightful black-comedy from John Michael McDonough that features a tour-de-force performance from Brendan Gleeson. Along with noteworthy supporting work from Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan, and Liam Cunningham. It’s a film that is truly entertaining that has a great visual style and story that is truly engaging to watch. Notably as it gives Brendan Gleeson the chance to headline a film where he succeeds in every way. In the end, The Guard is a remarkable and entertaining film from John Michael McDonough.

Related: Calvary

© thevoid99 2012


s. said...

Excellent review! I really need to give this movie another shot, I only saw a bit of it, but Don Cheadle was pissing me off so much I couldn't go on. I do love Mark Strong, though, so I need to watch it to the end.

thevoid99 said...

Watch the whole thing. It's really a great film. Cheadle's character is meant to be the straight man. He's supposed to be the guy who is frustrated with Gleeson yet has to accept the fact that Gleeson is a guy not to mess with.

Chip Lary said...

I liked this film, but I didn't love it. I agree that Gleeson is the reason to see it. I have seen a lot of hatred for this movie, though. I think it comes from some people expecting to see "In Bruges, Part 2" and in how some people interpret the ending.

thevoid99 said...

@Chip-I liked it enough for the fact that it was its own film. I wasn't expecting In Bruges 2.

The ending for me is a delight because there's so many possibilities of what happened.


I think he actually did swim somewhere where he wouldn't be recognized.

Chip Lary said...


I completely agree with you on the ending, and we both liked the film. I've usually seen comments like "Why did he have to die?" from people who dislike the film.