The Guard – Review

There are usually two ways that a low-budget film from a first-time director can go. It can be a bit messy with too many ideas crammed into it. Or it can be worked on until it is a slick engaging film. Thankfully The Guard is in the second category. Written and Directed by John Michael McDonagh this is the tale of an unorthodox Irish Policeman, Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson),  and his reluctance to get involved in basically anything that involves him having to exert himself in his job. He likes a quiet life keeping the peace in a small Irish town, spending his free time drinking, dabbling in the occasional drug, and enjoying the company of one or two prostitutes at a time. The last thing he wants is to have a new colleague from the big city to break in. On top of this an FBI agent, Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) appears on the hunt for international drug dealers. Right from the first meeting, Boyle winds up the FBI agent and basically everybody else in the room with some choice racist comments.  Due to a dead drug dealer being found in Boyle’s town and his new colleague is murdered, the two must try to work together to find where the drugs will be coming ashore.

This is a fantastic film. As stated before the screenplay is superb. All the characters are interesting with and well-rounded. They all seem to be complete characters and not just plot devices. Gerry Boyle is a bit of a misjudged character. His public persona is the stereotypical Irish country policeman. Rude, crude, selfish, and a bit ignorant. What he is like behind that is the complete opposite. He obviously likes to keep his private life private. He cares for his ill mother is well read enjoys swimming in the sea. His wit is very dry and the other characters do not know when to take him seriously and when he is just winding them up. He has some cracking, often hilarious lines. Brendan Gleeson seems to be having a great time playing this character. A role like this does not come up often so Mr. Gleeson makes the most of the opportunity. The FBI agent is basically the straight man in the duo. The performance by Don Cheadle is very straight up allowing the Boyle character to dominate the piece. Even the smaller roles have cracking dialogue. The drug dealers discuss philosophy mixed in with the type of conversation you would expect from this type of character. Mark Strong is particularly effective as the token Englishman psycho for hire. He has a world-weary outlook to his business until there is a bit of violence to liven things up.


This is a nicely paced film with no noticeable padding scenes. The direction, music, and cinematography are not at all showy, allowing the strong and engaging story to carry you along.

A very good film. I look forward to the director’s next project. Another team up with Brendan Gleeson in the film Calvary. Recommended.

John McArthur
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3 thoughts on “The Guard – Review

  1. Pingback: The Guard (2011) « valdez2032

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