Brendan Gleeson had a standout role as a rueful hitman in the wickedly dark comedy thriller In Bruges and he’s in equally fine form in the similarly dark and funny The Guard, whose writer-director, John Michael McDonagh, is the brother of In Bruges creator Martin McDonagh. This time Gleeson is on the other side of the law, but his character is the least likely cop hero you can imagine.
A small-town police sergeant in the west of Ireland, Gerry Boyle is overweight, middle-aged, gleefully cynical and defiantly politically incorrect – much to the shock of strait-laced African-American FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), who finds himself reluctantly working with the Irish copper to bring down an international cocaine-smuggling ring. Yet as the investigation proceeds in offbeat buddy-movie fashion, Everett begins to grasp the shrewd brain that’s hidden behind Boyle’s dumb hick schtick.
Far smarter than he lets on, Boyle constantly wrong-foots those around him. And so does McDonagh’s film, throwing in philosophy-quoting crooks and Stetson-wearing IRA men into the mix. Fortunately, the quirkiness doesn’t get out of hand and beneath the banter is a cracking crime thriller that delivers intricate plotting, tense standoffs and bloody shootouts as well as subversive wit.