*** The Guard (2011)
A sort of sibling picture to In Bruges, director Michael McDonagh’s 2008 offbeat comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, The Guard finds brother John McDonagh at the helm this time (in his directorial debut) recasting Gleeson in the role of a caustic rural cop in Connemara, Ireland. Not much happens in the way of serious police business out this way until a gang of drug runners is found to be operating in the area. An FBI agent (played by Don Cheadle) is sent to provide assistance to the local Irish police and an odd-couple/fish out of water/buddy cop comedy ensues.
Cheadle plays the strait-laced, formal, polite and professional Felix Ungar cop and Gleeson the obnoxious, but charming Oscar Madison local and while The Guard’s central conceit isn’t particularly original, the execution is charming and frequently quite funny. The bad guys are nicely cast, but their roles are slightly underwritten, a bit of a shame considering the terrific group of actors assembled to play them – Mark Strong, David Wilmot and Liam Cunningham. The film, however, belongs to Gleeson who simply tears up every scene in a bravado performance that garnered a worthy Golden Globe nomination earlier this year. Cheadle holds his own but in a secondary role and quite frankly, you could have cast a box of Cheerios beside Gleeson and it would have worked.
The Guard isn’t perfect, but the script’s deft touches of dark, Irish humour, a terrific central performance and some nice secondary casting choices make this a safe bet if you’re in the mood for something light that isn’t lame. FYI: The often-colourful language pushes The Guard into decidedly-adult territory if you were wondering.