The Guard: Buddy cop meets The Dude
Ireland, in particular Galway, strikes me as an unusual setting for a crime plot based on international drug smuggling to take place, but it works – in the same way Hot Fuzz worked, but with more laughs and self-awareness and less over-the-top parody homage. The Guard comes to us from the brother, John Michael McDonagh, of the man who brought us In Bruges. That was a film I greatly enjoyed when it was released, another off-beat crime comedy (although much blacker in the Belgian setting) with a fantastic Irish lead.
Brendan Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a member of the Irish Garda in Galway, where the film opens with him and his ‘big-city boy’ new partner come across a murdered man. Drub smuggling and FBI agents (Don Cheadle) abound as the situation escalates.
The Guard, whilst enjoyable, is a largely routine affair plotwise (aside from one, in my view, reasonably unexpected character disposal early on) – think the buddy cop film meets Father Ted. Brendan Gleeson’s willfully offensive and hedonistic Sgt Gerry Boyle is what makes the film though, in the same way the three main turns (Gleeson, Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes) made In Bruges. The Gleeson character comes across as an almost law-enforcing Irish version of The Dude, albeit with a good dose of curmudgeon thrown in. The film has a decent concept executed well, with a funny script and superb turn by Gleeson. In addition the curious west Irish prism through which crime elements normally associated with, say, CSI Miami adds to chuckle-count.
It isn’t without problems. A couple of subplots feel tacked-on or left hanging and there were a couple of characters that you would expect to see more development of (one of the few problems with the In Bruges now I think of it). The films feels curiously rough around the edges, but not in a stylistic way.
If you’re not laughing fairly regularly over the 90 minutes, however, which is the main standard by which a comedy should probably be judged, I’ll be surprised.