While there’s murder, corruption and drug trafficking, it is wry comedy that propels this buddy cop/crime caper, set in a tiny port town outside of Galway on the rugged west coast of Ireland.
To call paunchy, beer-guzzling Garda Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) a rowdy, unorthodox rebel would be an understatement. He’s a vulgar, irascible, crotch-grabbing curmudgeon, as his new, young partner, Aidan McBride (Rory Keenan) discovers, while they’re examining a bullet-riddled corpse of a man with Bible pages stuffed in his mouth, a potted plant between his legs and the number “5 ½” written on the wall above him. Apparently, the victim is connected to half a billion dollars in drug-dealing money – but Boyle doesn’t realize that until the arrival of visiting American FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) and the subsequent disappearance of McBride, as reported by his weeping Romanian wife (Katarina Cas).
Meanwhile, willful, whoring Boyle – who describes himself as a “lowly country nobody” – is partnered with strait-laced, disciplined Everett – an odd couple, if ever there was one – as they search the provincial, Gaelic-speaking Connemara region for the ruthless, cocaine-smuggling culprits and Boyle keeps a watchful eye on his dying mum (Fionnula Flanagan).
Written and directed as a first feature by John Michael McDonagh (older brother of “In Bruges” playwright/filmmaker Martin McDonagh), it’s more comedy than thriller, since the bad guys (Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, David Wilmot) are revealed early on and, despite an inexplicable penchant for quoting Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, their demise seems inevitable. So it’s the battling banter between Boyle and Everett that commands attention, along with the growing respect that have for one another.
“I’m Irish,” Boyle explains. “Racism is part of my culture.”
One caution: if you have trouble comprehending the Irish brogue, you may miss much of the dialogue. Isn’t it too bad that films with thick Irish/British dialects don’t have subtitles for American audiences?
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Guard” is an amusingly subversive 7, filled with nasty, impudent Irish humor.