by Tim Ross
Seeing a movie at the Manor (Regal Manor Twin) means your odds of enjoying it are somewhat stronger than at your local multiplex. That’s because the films that play in the venerable art house have already run the gauntlet for U.S. distribution, fighting among many foreign films hoping to make it to our shores.
Considering those odds, “The Guard,” starring Brendan Gleeson, is the cream of an already talented crop and skips along like a whimsical Irish reel. Part dark cop buddy comedy, part straightforward murder mystery, always entertaining.
Sergeant Boyle (Gleeson) is a member of the local police force in Galway, a small village on the raw, windy western coast of Ireland. We first meet Boyle as he witnesses what would be a horrific scene for most of us. He barely flinches. The next day, a new partner, McBride (Rory Keenan), is thrust upon him and soon after a murder is discovered.
A trio of international drug smugglers wants to use Galway as a drop off point and hot on their trail, all the way from the States, is FBI detective Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle). Everett and Boyle meet, the insults fly and an uneasy, highly entertaining partnership begins.
“The Guard” is billed as a raucous comedy. I disagree – it’s rarely raucous. It’s smart, witty and wry – a clever comedy that peels back the layers of real life no matter how crazy the situation. The drug runners dryly comment on drug runner clichés, cops mock each other and observe the foibles of police life and Boyle comments on the inanity of everything he sees.
Boyle, who scowls, grumbles and jokes his way into an increasingly complex and dangerous investigation, is a pure enigma and that’s his strength. It’s his weapon against corruption, armed drug dealers and overwhelming odds. Everett says of Boyle, “I don’t know if you are really stupid or really smart,” and that paradox is the main charm of “The Guard.”
Gleeson’s performance, a fine ensemble cast and barebones plot rich in true comedy knit together a thoroughly satisfying evening at the cinema. As the end credits play, there’s only one question left unanswered. Or is it?
Viewers lucky enough to see “The Guard” and hang around to see everyone involved in making this enjoyable film will find out for themselves. You should be one of them.
Grade: 3 1/2 out of 4
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some violence, drug material and sexual content
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle,
Studio: Element Pictures