Friday, July 29, 2011

Movie with Abe: The Guard

The Guard
Directed by John Michael McDonagh
Released July 29, 2011

Some movies just can’t be put into a box. The story of a purposefully obnoxious Irish cop (Brendan Gleeson) begrudgingly working with a straight-faced FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to intercept and take down drug smugglers could sound like a comedy or a drama, and it falls somewhere in between. At times, it’s deadly serious, and at other times, it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. It’s best compared to the terrific “In Bruges,” which is reminiscent for a reason: the directors of the two films are brothers, and they share an important trait in common, a fantastic sense of originality, creativity, and wit.

There’s more than just a family connection with the directors between “In Bruges” and “The Guard.” In both films, Brendan Gleeson stars along with another actor in a furiously funny performance that doubles as a dramatic role. In “The Guard,” Gleeson’s Sergeant Gerry Boyle is the more apparently bafoonish of the two, quickly irking Cheadle’s FBI Agent Wendell Everett immediately upon his arrival with his overtly racist and offensive comments. What sets him apart, according to the actors, is that Boyle is an “equal opportunity offender” who only says things to get a rise out of people. He’s an effective lead who can get away with making such comments expressly because he doesn’t actually believe what he’s saying.

Boyle isn’t the only above-average character in “The Guard.” The villains, quite unusually, are intellectuals that discuss Nietzsche and seem rather bored with their efforts, according to director and writer John Michael McDonagh. Their interactions are entirely amusing, and it’s fun to see actors Liam Cunningham (currently starring on BBC America’s “Outcasts”) and Mark Strong, in a role fitting as a follow-up to his superb comedic villainy in “RocknRolla” and his more serious part in “Body of Lies,” among them.

The ensemble in “The Guard” is top-notch, led by superb performances from Gleeson and Cheadle, who play perfectly off of each other, responding to each other’s tics with just the right amount of aggressive energy. The balance of humor and drama is where the film truly excels, and it’s a delight and a thrill at the same time all the way through its run time. It’s subtly stylized and mesmerizingly entertaining, without a dull moment and with many extraordinarily intriguing and memorable lines and scenes. McDonagh should feel fortunate to be compared to his brother since it’s an entirely favorable and complimentary sentiment.


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