For any family of filmmakers, living up to your siblings’ work is always going to be a challenge. However, when your brother has recently released one of the brightest, freshest and funniest comedies that modern cinema has brought us, In Bruges, the boots are just that extra size bigger. Nevertheless, John Michael McDonagh not only rises to the challenge with THE GUARD, but he actually manages to give the aforementioned indie classic a run for its money.
The film opens up with alcohol swigging, prostitute shagging and drug stealing Irish policeman, Sergeant Gerry Boyle, stumbling upon a murder scene that is somehow linked to smuggling ring. When help is needed to investigate the case, uptight FBI agent Wendell Everett is deployed to the island to partner with Boyle.
In Bruges comparisons are going to difficult to shake with the same edgy black humour flowing through its veins. After all, Gerry Boyle spits just as many racist, xenophobic, homophobic and anti-American lines as both of In Bruges’ protagonists put together. However, The Guard is equally a bird of a very different feather. It playfully introduces elements of the buddy cop genre via the relationship between Boyle and Wendell, a companionship that is so contrasting it somehow has a wonderful chemistry. Calexio’s score, moreover, gives it the feeling of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western that truly comes alive in the final action scenes. Plus, some of the camerawork and lighting, complemented by the mystery at The Guard’s centre, give the movie a shade of film noir too.
Nonetheless, it is the dialogue that stands out in The Guard showcasing a huge number of killer lines that you’ll still find yourself chuckling about the next morning. Like his brother, John McDonagh isn’t afraid to pull his punches when it comes to black humour and it makes for a breathe of fresh air after so many comedies this summer have been so clichéd. Still, his confidence to deliver some controversial joke doesn’t manage to overshadow how bright and witty he can be with a number of gags cleverly poking fun at Ireland’s history, culture and lifestyle.
Brendan Gleeson knocks the lead role out of the park in a performance that received a rapturous round of applause at tonight’s opening gala at the Edinburgh Film Festival. His comic timing and facial expressions are impeccable while he equally nails the darker elements of the role that see him dealing with the grief of his dying mother. Don Cheadle, on the other hand, has less to do in his role, but as the contrasting, by-the-book officer, he doesn’t put a foot wrong either.
Brilliant writing, excellent performances, a bit of action and a simple yet fresh story make The Guard a tremendous piece of entertainment cinema. This is a family to keep your eye on.