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  • Writer's pictureSteve

The Guard (2012)

Like Irvine Welsh, John and Martin McDonagh can be an acquired taste. Their writing is raw, often hilariously honest and rarely pulls punches. It doesn't apologise for its sometimes lack of subtlety and is never more than a few short steps from regularly inspired.

This doesn't always sit comfortably with audiences, but critically their work is continually appreciated. After the excellent 'In Bruges' where Martin McDonagh was responsible for writing and direction, he now takes a back seat as producer to let brother John take over for The Guard. Both of these projects starred Brendan Gleeson. Here Gleeson plays the part of Sergeant Gerry Boyle, an unconventional police officer with his own unique approach to law enforcement.


The story is a simple one, the investigation and attempted capture of some drug smugglers in a mostly sleepy Irish town full of the kind of characters only British writers can really capture with any degree of realism. There is sarcasm in abundance and irony forever lurking at the back of the class, throwing paper at the teacher when his back is turned.


It goes without saying that the script is first class and Gleeson's performance is exemplary. This is not an acting masterclass by any means, but Boyle is fully rounded (literally) by Gleeson, who never has any trouble enveloping any character completely. Less impressive is Don Cheadle, who plays an FBI agent sent to Ireland on a tip that the five hundred million pounds worth of cocaine is going to turn up somewhere nearby. Occasionally he comes across as a rabbit in the headlights, as if from another world. I was reminded of Meg Ryan's interview with Michael Parkinson, that same, silent other-worldliness that told far more about her than anything she could ever have said.


McDonagh takes the usual standard of cops and robbers and completely turns it on it's head, making the incredible seem everyday, with common sense nods to the most obvious Hollywood clichés. Even the action scenes, few though there are, are reeked with cynical understated clarity, with a biting humour that pokes fun at everything glamourised by the movie industry from across the pond.


Reality is funny, after all, especially when it's trying to be cool and McDonagh knows this. Every scene in the film could have been re-written and starred a Hollywood A-lister and been written ever so slightly differently. It would have a movie we all recognise, one that we have seen many times before, and this is the skill that McDonagh shows here.


Altogether, a very enjoyable film that knows exactly where it sits in the grand scheme of things. Sitting at the back of the class, throwing paper at Hollywood while its back is turned.

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