He’s not The Bad Lieutenant, he’s not Dirty Harry nor is he Alonzo Harris. No, those cats are bad cops, even Dirty Harry no matter what anybody else will tell you, where Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is just a fat, lazy cop, or more accurately, he’s a bad cop in the sense that he’s not very good at his job, as opposed to being dirty, or on the take, or abusive. But he’s a good man who loves his sick mum Eileen (Fionnula Flanagan), and he does come to work when required. And he will take his days off when scheduled. No matter what. Believe that. Sgt. Boyle is the main cog in director John Michael McDonagh’s Ireland based comedy / crime / thriller ‘The Guard’, and it is outstanding.
This particular day Sgt. Boyle and his new guard Aidan McBride (Rory Keenan) have stumbled upon a murder. Very uncommon in this small town. Plus this murder looked to be some ritualistic, devil worshipping, biblical type stuff. We know from experience, that experience coming from watching a lot of TV and movies, that police officers tend to frown on folks who contaminate their crime scenes by touching stuff and stepping on stuff. Sgt. Boyle apparently didn’t bother to read that chapter at the academy.
As it turns out, thanks to some valuable information given to us from FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) who is in town searching for four men who are in the process of moving a boatload of cocaine, the dead guy is one of those four men. Now he’s looking for three men. Francis the hostile Mastermind (Liam Cunningham), Clive the hostile stuffy Brit (Mark Strong) and Liam the hostile psychopath (David Wilmot), and from the looks of it, these three are hanging out in Sgt. Boyles town. Ask Guard Aidan McBride, because he met them. Or don’t ask him.
What this means is that Agent Everett and Sgt. Boyle are about to turn this into one of those opposite type buddy cop flicks, you know, like ‘Lethal Weapon’ or something. That is if Martin Riggs was a fat racist slob. You see we have Agent Everett who is Black and all and considering that most of Sgt. Boyles knowledge of Black people seems to come from watching old episodes of ‘Cops’, he says some inappropriate things on occasion. Agent Everett, for his part, can’t speak a lick of Gaelic, and he’s also
made some improper assumptions about his new partner. You see it’s not that Sgt. Boyle isn’t good at his job because he can’t be good at his job, it’s just that the need to be good at his job at his current location has never been necessary, so keep your snide comments and overt disrespect to yourself, Agent Everett.
Our three bad guys really don’t want any trouble. They just want to move their cocaine and get out of town and they’ve even donated generously to the Ireland Police Fund to insure the smooth operation of this plan. Sure, they might’ve murdered a couple of people but they don’t want any trouble, not really. The thing is, there is one cop they can’t seem to buy off. They do have a backup plan to keep Sgt. Boyle in check, because he does engage in activities that a member of a law enforcement agency shouldn’t partake in, but they just can’t trust him to stay out the way. They don’t have to worry too much about Agent Everett because he knows every damn thing already and is off on a wild goose chase, but that dang Sgt. Boyle could be a problem.
If it were another day, Sgt. Boyle might have just looked the other way. But the situation with his mum, his life, the disrespect, and even his beloved prostitutes proving to be less than honest… It’s time to get involved. It would be helpful if that haughty FBI agent who knows everything would come on back to help out, but either way, there will be a shootout.
What makes McDonagh’s ‘The Guard’ such a fine film? A lot actually but we’re not going out on a limb here saying that it’s number one selling point is Brendan Gleeson’s performance. It’s not often that they make movies where the lead character is fat, slovenly, racist, profane man with a predilection for hookers, and one who loves him mom, but here he is and we can relate this guy. Minus the racism part. But even Sgt. Boyles racist antics are so ignorant and obnoxious, Archie Bunkeresque almost, that even they have their charms. The support that McDonagh was able to assemble to assist Gleeson’s lead was equally up for the task, Don Cheadle of course, but particularly Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, and David Wilmot who came off as a violent, murderous version of the Marx Brothers. Those three guys should probably have their own movie… that is if… you know… let’s say it would be prequel.
The movie does have some ‘action movie’ conveniences wedged into the clever script and dialog. When Sgt. Boyle finds a stash of guns, one of them being a tiny Derringer, do you think that tiny gun might come in handy somewhere down the line? Or did Sgt. Boyle just find tiny little gun? You know it’s coming in handy. And did the movie really need to end in a shootout with explosions and stuff? Yeah, I guess it did, all things considered. Particularly the way McDonagh setup and executed the scene.
‘The Guard’ was funny, clever, well acted, and a unique take on the ‘buddy cop’ movie. That is after I eventually adjusted to what the hell they were saying about fifteen minutes into the movie. Highly recommended.