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The Guard

April 13th                        John Michael McDonagh            Certificate 15                    UK 2011

Sgt Gerry Boyle (BrendonGleeson) is a morass of contradictions. A drinker and a drug user with a penchant for prostitutes, he's racist, loud-mouthed and lazy. In virtually any other film, his 'journey' would be about his redemption, especially when he's paired with by-the-book FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle, alas unblessed with funny lines) to investigate an import of drugs into the West of Ireland, where he makes his occasional patrols. Up against a hyper-literate trio of criminals (played, splendidly, by Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and David Wilmot), Boyle and Everett must put aside their common differences, etc etc.

It's all somewhat reminiscent of McDonagh's brother Martin's ...) In Bruges, specifically the same combination of offbeat detail, witty and highly quotable banter, unexpected moments of violence and a sensibility that owes more to theatre than to cinema. It scores, however, in Gleeson's wonderfully rich performance, as a man to whom Wendell can say, d
espairingly, 'I don't know if you're really smart or really dumb', and the audience wonder that question for most of the film as well. Yet Gleeson makes Boyle a sympathetic and likeable character even at his most apparently crass, whether in his unsentimental but still rather touching relationship with his dying mother (Fionnula Flanagan) or in the grand finale, where the action beats of a shoot-out are vastly less interesting than Boyle's behaviour, keeping the audience guessing until the  end

It may be well-worn territory, but thanks to the awards-worthy leading performance from Brendan Gleeson and a sharp, witty script, The Guard is a winner.