The Guard

Western Cop Meets Irish Cop


29 July 2011| No Comments on The Guard     by Sean Chavel


It doesn’t have to be handsome to win its four-leaf clover. Brendan Gleeson as The Guard is the kind of rogue cop who spouts profanities because that’s what he does. For smart audiences looking for smart and irreverent humor, this is one tasty Irish mug. Don Cheadle is the FBI man from Atlanta that goes to Galway to break up drug smugglers in lieu of a half a billion dollar deal. “Are you from the Projects?” Gleeson’s Sgt. Gerry Boyle asks of FBI man Wendell Everett, and then dubiously further questions his education and upbringing. Sgt. Boyle also mistakes the F.B.I. for being in Langley, Virginia. He makes comments that black men can’t ski, self-correcting, “Or is that swimming?” Two lawmen opposites join forces, but this flick scratches out its’ own unique personality against rules of genre convention.

Solving a local murder and investigating a line of drug trafficking can always wait a day. Sgt. Boyle will spend his day off with two hookers, but instead of a clichéd desperate man message the movie instead subversively makes hanging out with hookers for the day look really fun. He drinks a lot and revels in his racist comments. “I’m Irish – racism is part of my culture.” The sad part is that mum has terminal cancer, but as a regale she makes fun of the other hospital patients for being gloomy.

A couple of scenes don’t swing as confidently as they should, but then there are others that show that “The Guard” has got some ironclad balls. For the most part, we get something that is expertly written, etched with palpable plotting and sharp characterizations, generously observant to its extrinsic setting, and capped by a final quandary that teeters upon formula but dodges it. Writer-director John Michael McDonagh is the brother to Martin who made the similarly veined “In Bruges” (2008) that also starred Gleeson. Both brothers know how to devise quirks and irregularities that separate it from other contemporaries in the police genre. If you like the blarney of “In Bruges,” then you will like “The Guard” just as much.

One minor drawback is that “The Guard” doesn’t have a villain as exceptional as Ralph Fiennes in “In Bruges,” with Mark Strong as the principal bad guy. But it’s hard to feel cheated by one such shortcoming. Sgt. Boyle is like a fireworks show where coming with every pop is a politically incorrect expletive. He also doesn’t like looking at babies. Not looking at them is the polite thing to do. Well, you’ll just have to hear it from him.

Cheadle has played officers before as seen in “Traffic” (2000) and “Crash” (2005), but while potent as usual, he nevertheless slides into a milder, smoother character. His Agent Everett just happens to look at other Irish lieutenants frequently in @#!*% disbelief. He has one memorable scene where he is beside himself when a local cop badgers instead of coaxes information from an innocent witness. Incredulous to Everett is that Sgt. Boyle is the one lecturing him about how to talk to people.

Yes, this is the kind of movie – not by itself but as a model leader – that can save movies at large. As studio execs continue to destroy movies with 3D gimmicks and idiotic-designed “thrill-ride” movies that don’t thrill in 3D, “The Guard” is a movie that proves that all you need is an uncensored motormouth and a blustery stride to keep us pinned to our seats. That’s what I call a movie made for us adults and not for an 8-year old. F***, yeah!

96 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Assassination Tango” (2002); “The Matador” (2005); “Reign Over Me” (2007); “In Bruges” (2009);

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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