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GUARD, THE (director/writer: John Michael McDonagh; cinematographer: Larry Smith; editor: Chris Gill; music: Calexico; cast: Brendan Gleeson (Sgt. Gerry Boyle), Don Cheadle (Wendell Everett), Liam Cunningham (Francis Sheehy), David Wilmot (Liam O’Leary), Rory Keenan (Aidan McBride), Katarina Cas(Mrs. McBride), Mark Strong (Clive Cornell), Fionnula Flanagan (Eileen Boyle), Dominique McElligott (Aoife), Sarah Green (Sinead), Pat Shortt (Colum Hennessey); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Chris Clark/Flora Fernandez-Marengo/Ed Guiney/Andrew Lowe; Sony Pictures Classics; 2011-Ireland)

Despite its flaws it remains entertaining, good for a few laughs.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh in his debut as director. He also writes this slick mismatched buddy cop film set in a quiet seaside Connemara village, in the rural Galway area in west Ireland. It centers around unconventional Garda (Gaelic for guard) Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), a boozing, acid taking, foul-mouthed, crime scene thief and prostitute patronizing bachelor joker. Boyle is concerned only about his dying mom (Fionnula Flanagan) in a rest home and that his new partner (Rory Keenan), who just transferred from Dublin, was murdered after reported as missing on his first day on the job. The Sergeant consoles and flirts with his colleague’s attractive widow (Katarina Cas), and must deal with an international drug trafficking ring who have received a drug shipment from a boat named the Annabel Lee and have set up business in Galway after bribing the local police. The rogue cop, who is corrupt up to a point but will not cross over to more dangerous criminal territory such as the brass taking bribes from the drug dealers, must also deal with blackmail from a familiar hooker. Straitlaced black FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) teams up with the colorful Boyle, as the odd duo go after the ruthless drug ring. The Agent bends his by the book ways because he needs the experienced Sergeant’s help to navigate the unfriendly Irish turf to recover the cocaine–with a supposed street value of half a billion dollars. When one of the four wanted drug traffickers is discovered as a murder victim in Connemara, Wendell and Gerry have some drinks at the local pub to size each other up before springing into action as a team. The fish-out-of-water Agent shrugs off Boyle’s frequent lighthearted racist remarks and the lads team up to go against the baddies, after the puzzled Agent says to his unorthodox partner: “I can’t tell if you’re really motherfucking dumb or really motherfucking smart.”

What keeps things poignant is the sharp observations of small-town life and what keeps things lively is the snappy banter between the culturally opposite cops and their eventual bonding. The memorable antics of the sympathetic naughty boy character played as broad comedy by Gleeson, gives the film its spice and nice flavor. Gleeson’s strong characterization makes up for many flaws that include a messy undeveloped story line and an idiotic but entertaining conceit of a drug gang, whereby the philosophizing leader (Mark Strong) and two other psychopath members (Liam Cunningham and David Wilmot) seem like a gang in a Tarantino film.Also because of the thick Irish accents, subtitles were needed in its American release to be more easily understood.By the conclusion, the story drifts off into too many different paths to follow all the characters introduced and the thriller loses the good will gained in its more powerful shocking early scenes, as the black comedy overwhelms the drama and leaves us still laughing at what might not be funny anymore if one were to take the story as anything more than an afterthought.But despite its flaws it remains entertaining, good for a few laughs and it takes some well-aimed pot shots at how sick and corrupt is our society–whereby the film’s hero is a bad cop who relishes being a bad ass. He just happens to be not quite as bad as the other bad cops, who like pretending to be good cops, and draws the line at partnering with drug traffickers.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”