Melbourne International Film Festival – The Guard

The Guard – Starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and Mark Strong. Directed by John Michael McDonagh. Rated MA. By Jess Lomas.

The Guard screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It opens in Australian cinemas August 25, 2011.

The premise of John Michael McDonagh’s Irish comedy crime caper The Guard is far from original: the unorthodox Sergeant Gerry Boyle, played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson, is teamed with by-the-book FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug smuggling ring. It is a classic retelling of the smart cop/stupid criminal story. Being the feature directorial debut by McDonagh, brother of Martin (In Bruges), makes this film more impressive; as is the fact that McDonagh also wrote the screenplay, containing a strong mix of action and dry, laugh out loud dialogue delivered perfectly by the capable cast.

While the plot may be simplistic, the execution is slick and entertaining. Gleeson and Cheadle are supported by a strong cast, especially Mark Strong as the drug-ring leader, a small role on screen but with some of the best dialogue. It would be near on impossible not to think of Martin’s divine In Bruges while watching his brother, Michael’s, handiwork. Though unfair to compare the two, The Guard has hints of the biting humour which made In Bruges such a hit with audiences. No doubt upon a wider release, that same audience will delight in this fresh, fast paced offering from another McDonagh sibling.

The Guard feels brighter than most crime comedies, both visually and in tone. This is predominantly thanks to Gleeson’s larger than life presence on screen, and also a result of director McDonagh’s desire to channel directors John Ford and Preston Sturges, creating a biting satire and fulfilling action film in the process. What holds The Guard back from entering Rush Hour territory (the film brought to mind during the heated, colourful exchanges between Gleeson and Cheadle) is the realism stitched into the fabric of this film. While the characters and situations are heightened above everyday life, their reactions and the outcomes for all involved are believable.

The Guard is a combination of a strong screenplay and cast, cleverly crafted by McDonagh to produce a polished and punchy crime comedy.

3.5/5

The Guard screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It opens in Australian cinemas August 25, 2011.

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