The Guard was never going to get the same kind of press as many of the other films this summer; but with the brilliant pairing of Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, coupled with its wicked sense of humour, more people really should see this than inevitably will. Essentially, it is a fish-out-of-water film (as referred to in the film - very meta). The big-shot FBI agent, Wendell Everett, (Cheadle) is posted to Galway on the trail of some drug smugglers (Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, and Mark Strong). Along the way he must cope with the Irish “Guarda” (police), most of who are being paid off by the smugglers, and Sergeant Boyle (Gleeson) whose sarcastic, semi-racist character is generally at odds with Wendell’s polite and proper by-the-book brand of policing.
Naturally the bad guys are eventually caught, but this of course isn’t the point. From the opening scene, where a car full of drunk/drugged-up youths driving too fast crashes, and Boyle doesn’t bat an eyelid before trying one of the dead guy's pills; you know that this won’t be an ordinary murder enquiry film. “What a beautiful fucking day!”.
The plot is not intricate, but what makes this film great is the cast. Gleeson is brilliant as the larger than life, confrontational Sergeant Boyle; and Cheadle is equally brilliant. The drug smugglers are also great, in particular Mark Strong; and the idea to have the the three of them discuss Nietzsche and generally be philosophical is inspired. Based around these main characters, the police station contains many other colourful characters; there is a local lad who is obsessed with photographing the more macabre details of the police work, and another lad (mostly incomprehensible) who always rides a pink bike and is accompanied by his dog.
As I’ve said, the film isn’t particularly fancy, but the rugged Irish landscape is beautifully shot, the wonderful characters are brought to life by a brilliant cast, and the film is abound with comedy. From the random Daniel O’Donnell poster in Boyle’s bedroom to the conversation he has with the guy who has come to kill him the film is wry, sarcastic, sharp, and generally laugh out loud funny.