Cinema lies within sight and sound. You wouldn’t know it living in 2011, where too many films are mainly occupied with bombastic action sequences, frantic images, and CGI constructed robots. The art of dialogue is seemingly fading fast. But then, out of left field comes a film like The Guard: A snappy, satirical comedy that manages to hold an engrossing storyline at its core. John Michael McDonagh’s directorial debut is such an oddity in cinema, you’ll be wishing for more as soon as the credits start rolling.
And I suppose the only sincere and honest explanation I can give you for the quality of the film, is the dialogue. Written by McDonaugh this is a tour-de-force of storytelling, blending an investing crime drama with such keen, black comedy. I was in awe of these conversations, varying from dramatic to juvenile so naturally I felt as if I was spying on these people living their normal lives.
The centerpiece of this wondrous film is of course, our protagonist: Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Glesson), a confrontational Irish cop, who is unconventional, balls to walls hysterical, and a bit of a racist – then again, as he says, “Racism is rooted in his Irish heritage”.
Boyle is tested physically and mentally when a murder of young lad (did I really just say lad?) shows up in Northern Ireland, his stomping ground. FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) comes in from the States, and explains to the deprived country that there’s a high-octane drug trafficking unit about to make a drug deal worth billions of dollars. So, Boyle being one of the only legitimate and conscious officers left, must team up with the FBI agent to investigate and solve this international narcotics deal.
What’s so miraculous here is that the plot, beyond being a springboard for witty and smart-ass remarks, is enigmatic to a pulp. These drug dealers, played by Mark Strong among others, are the real deal – played with authenticity, while still being comical.
Like all films, The Guard has its fair share of problems. Many of the action sequences are lackluster compared to the characters and story on screen, but that doesn’t hold the film back much. The grainy look of the film works in some scenes and feels out of place in some. And the whole picture borders on a fine line of just being a bit too clever and puny for its own good. It’s not a question of people winking at the camera, but McDonagh getting a bit too hefty with word play.
Still, those are small speed bumps in a road that runs miles deep in substance and storytelling. The nuances and fantastic leading performances come in spades – especially Gleason who commands the screen every second. He has a personability about him that’s uncanny and often lost in Hollywood.
The Guard is a perfect summer film by any and all standards. It has action, comedy, and drama – all delivered in a compelling direction. The chemistry between Cheadle and Gleeson is so brilliant and rich I was smiling and laughing the whole way through.
Above all, though, you’ll likely be left with one lasting thought: it’s a pity we don’t receive more films like The Guard – a film that respects its audience intelligence, letting us figure out the police procedural, while unraveling this mans battle between integrity and greed. The whole experience was refreshing and exciting. What a joy The Guard was.