Review: The Guard

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Screenplay: John Michael McDonagh

Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong

Rating: 4 stars

For anyone who enjoyed the Irish black comedy that was In Bruges, The Guard is its very gobby, twisted yet hilarious younger sibling. Directed and written by John Michael McDonagh, brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh, it quietly yet persistently earned the place of most successful independent Irish film of all time according to box office receipts.

Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson – In Bruges, Harry Potter saga) is an unorthodox Irish policeman with a passion for swearing, Russian classical literature, prostitutes and recreational drug use. In a hunt for a trio of extremely dangerous, international drug mules, he is forced to assist a visiting FBI agent. Although Boyle’s relationship with the black FBI agent, Everett (Don Cheadle) does not get off to a great start, “I’m Irish, sure, racism is part of me culture”, the seemingly unlikely yet predictable, as in any cop film, bromance that then flourishes helps them track down the eccentric trio; casual philosophy reader and chief mastermind, Skeffington (Liam Cunningham); daft and bloodthirsty Moloney (David Wilmot); and suave, short-tempered part-timer Clive Cornell (Mark Strong).

Throughout the entire picture, it is very hard to believe that this smart and, for lack of a better word, alternative, take on the traditional buddy-cop pair up is only McDonagh’s second film. With Gleeson running for Best Actor in the Golden Globes, this maverick oddity is anything but disappointing – something many Irish dark dramedy fans feared when first hearing about the project. Au contraire, the film is gripping, laced with decadent violence and dark humour throughout, and is undoubtedly the biggest breakthrough for Irish cinema since In Bruges. Both the scriptwriters and the cast are to be especially commended, for the timing and delivery of each line, regardless of size of role or age group (with the youngest being a 10 year old boy cycling through the swampy fields of Connemara on a pink bike) was exceptional, giving the film a particular edge.

My only complaint was that at times some scenes appeared a little dragged out and of very little substance; probably because McDonagh got tired of being constantly awesome and decided to insert some boring scenes to make up for his innate coolness. Yes, this film really IS that good – even the few bad scenes seem like they are intentionally bad. If anything, this film just makes me want to be Irish.


An edited version of this article appeared in Issue 762 of the Newspaper of the LSE Students’ Union, The Beaver.

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