Under the Radar?: “The Guard”

“The Guard” is a dark comedy revolving around an unorthodox Irish police officer, played by Brendan Gleeson. He’s a hard partying man with little respect for the formality of the job, but he still has a strong sense of honor, and great instincts.

When murderous drug traffickers attempt to move $500 million in cocaine through the country, he finds himself paired with an uptight FBI agent from the United States (Don Cheadle). Together they have to track down and stop the gang of criminals before anyone else gets killed.

Including themselves.

Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) has a way with his job. He’s irreverent and indifferent, yet strangely effective. You get that sense that too many years on the beat have burned him out. He has no time to waste on foolishness now. His personal lifestyle is also nothing like what you’d expect of a cop. He parties hard and has a penchant for prostitutes, and really barely even cares who knows.
When people start turning up dead in his precinct, it’s not much of a stretch for him to presume the blame lies with a trio of narcotics traffickers reported to be in the vicinity. American FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle) holds a briefing for the police detailing the men’s activities, and though Boyle is disruptive and disrespectful, he also seems to be the only one with any solid leads.
This temporarily partners the two very different men up. The results driven Irish cop who couldn’t give less of a shit about formality and the by the books American FBI agent begin to work together at tracking down the smugglers and solving the murders. Along the way they’ll run across crooked cops, gun-toting children, tag team hookers and of course, the philosopher quoting drug runners themselves.
It’s an offbeat comedy to say the least. Quiet and reserved for the most part, and never trying to hit the big laugh. Instead, it works on building the characters (primarily Gleeson’s Boyle) and letting their interplay drive the movie. Boyle comes across as a cop who can’t be bothered at times, and then at others, you get the feeling that he’s four steps ahead of things, and that’s why he doesn’t need to waste his time on the details. He drinks and drugs and hires out hookers in pairs, but at the same time he has an ailing mother that he obviously cares for very much.
It’s these kinds of contradictions that make for an interesting character, and thus an interesting movie. Pairing him up with Cheadle’s straight-laced FBI agent is the perfect contrast to showcase all of his eccentricities and quirks. But as the film proceeds, Boyle’s ways will begin to win you over, and you’ll find yourself rooting for him to win the day.
“The Guard” is half crime drama, half comedy, but always a little understated. Even in Boyle’s wildest hours, “Over the top” is a phrase that would never be associated with this movie. But it’s that quietness that lends it most of its charm, and it does have charm. It’s written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, who creates a great character in Boyle and peppers the movie with some very artistic shots in order to keep the low-key story visually involving.
A solid flick, I found it very amusing.

46 thoughts on “Under the Radar?: “The Guard”

  1. Completely agree, it was a solid dark comedy which was very enjoyable. One of my favorites of last year and it seems not a lot of people saw it.

    • LOL. Ryan McNeil… why is this just hitting me now?

      Are you an Irish Canadian?

      I always figured America was the only nation where people cited their ancestral country as their “Nationality” lol.

      • Actually, in Canada it’s even more pronounced since we believe in the multiculturalism a bit more than you fine folks. I’m more Maritime Canadian than I am full-on Irish – you have to go back three or four generations to figure out which McNeil took the big boat west.

      • Ha, that’s funny.

        I’m only half Irish descent anyways. The other half’s italian.

        I got the best of both worlds. Dad could drink and Mom could cook. I grew up a rebel rouser with a healthy appetite. 😀

  2. It’s kind of a cliche. The uptight American comes to Eire and is surrounded by the serene and laid-back natives. It works here quite nicely. The characters are end scale extreme, totally different from each other. But the twist comes in your expectations. Boyle is so wholly unreliable. Wrong! Wendell will solve this on his own. Wrong! Gleeson and Cheadle are at the top of their game! Don’t know if you saw Cheadle in “House of Lies” on cable. What a pro. Hope they bring that back. And Gleeson, well he’ll always be the “General” to me. Next up he plays a priest for McDonagh’s second feature. Should be interesting.

    • 😀 Must’ve skipped you earlier!

      The characters definitely are at the extremes here, but they’re not one dimensional. Neither of them. You get nice back story on each to round them out. And in Gleeson’s case, you get a really well developed character.

      I did NOT catch House of Lies, no. This blogging think has absolutely shredded the amount of TV programs I watch. So I never got around to it.

      Wow though, never saw “The General”, looks really cool though. I’m gonna have to check it out!

      • You’ll love it! Here’s an incredible twist. The real life Martin Cahill(the General) broke into John Boorman’s house and stole a gold record. Boorman put the incident in the movie, probably cause Cahill thought the record was real gold!

  3. You could re-make Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 with Gleeson and Cheadle, and I’d enjoy it. That’s how much respect I have for those two actors. Predictably, I really enjoyed The Guard.

    • LOL. That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. I love it. LOL 😀

      They are both great, I do enjoy both of them, and The Guard, as you say was an obvious winner for me because of it. Loved Gleeson in In Bruges. He was awesome there.

  4. I’ve heard about this one, and I like Gleeson and Cheadle, but somehow I never got around to watching it. Do you think it’s worth seeing, or is it just kind of so so?

    • Lets sayyyyy…

      I wouldnt rearrange things to see it, but if it winds up being an option for you when you have the time, you wont be disappointed. Hows that sound? I think thats about right. LOL

      • That sounds good. If I have a rainy evening and everything else out there sounds boring, I’ll give it a go:)

  5. Excellent film, like In Bruges as one of those films you don’t expect to be so good, and end up loving! Gleeson is always watchable, and here, he’s in his element.

    • Exactly, Nik. Definitely did catch me off guard, and I’ve been whistling “Leavin on a jet plane” all day (they roll credits with it)

      Glesson makes the flick, without a doubt!

  6. I REALLY want to see this but it’s not available on Netflix streaming! 😦 It’s also not on Amazon on Demand for some reason, so I might have to ask my friend to rent from regular Netflix and borrow it. The combo of Gleeson and Cheadle is just something I gotta see!

  7. This is a great film. I was lucky enough to see this at a press screening way before its release last year.

    It is a shame that more havne’t seen it. I think I likened it to Hot Fuzz meets Father Ted…. Which is pretty spot on if you know Father Ted!!

    Great work as ever Mr Fogs!!

  8. Definitely under the radar, but well-worth seeking out. Gleeson and Cheadle make a great team, and the amount of obsession the film shows toward American pop culture proves to be pretty damn funny.

  9. Black comedy at its best! LOVED it! In my top films of 2011.

    Brendan Gleeson is overly underrated.

    “I don’t want to see it. Babies all look the same. The only time a baby doesn’t look like every other baby is when it’s a really ugly baby. So, unless it’s a photo of a really ugly baby, I don’t want to see it.” LOL!

    • I actually told a girl no, I didnt want to see a picture of her kids at my ten year high school reunion. LOL.

      She was confused as all get out… Gleeson gave a rationale though, I just didnt want to see pictures of her kids. LOL!!

  10. THE GUARD is a great film but I find it difficult to truly love. Will I go back to it? I don’t know – I am irish so i think my Mum and Dad would love it (indeed,in ireland, it was ridiculously successful!). But I’ve seen it on sale, but I’m not interested in a rewatch. I think this is one of those films which are on the fence – not bad enough to claim its bad (indeed, its NOT bad) but not good enough to watch and rewatch. Its tough.

    • Yeah, I couldnt give it an A or anything… I dont know if I’d be anxious to watch it again, but I wouldn’t mind it. It was entertaining enough. I dont think there’s enough there for a bunch of multiple viewings. It’s definitely not a bad flick by any means. very enjoyable. Good to hear it was a big hit there, that’s cool…. 😀

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