In the Picture

The Guard

Directed by John Michael McDonagh

Rated MA15+

Brendan Gleeson has such a strong cinema presence that he's near perfect playing the role of an unorthodox Irish policeman in the usually sleepy district of Connemara in county Galway. With a confrontational personality and a fondness for drinking and prostitutes, Gleeson plays a sometimes honest cop who describes himself as "a lowly country nobody" in the debut feature by screenwriter/director John Michael McDonagh, who wrote the screenplay for the 2003 Ned Kelly starring Heath Ledger.

The Guard is a crowd-pleasing mix of thriller and black comedy, very sharply and smartly written by McDonagh. The film is an eccentric variation on the cop/buddy/odd couple format with American actor Don Cheadle as a strait-laced uptight FBI agent playing opposite the rudeness and stubborn integrity of the Irish Garda.

In other hands this film would probably have developed as an over-the-top violent cops and crims flick but, while there is certainly suspense, violence and plenty of coarse language in The Guard, it is far more interesting because of the focus on the offbeat subplots and the fascinating characters: the crims and the prostitutes, the IRA arms dealer, the policeman's dying mother Eileen (Fionula Flanagan), his new partner's Croatian wife (Katarina Kas) and the villains played by Mark Strong, David Wilmot and Liam Cunningham.

The plot concerns the unlikely teaming of the two cops played by Gleeson and Cheadle in coming to grips with an international cocaine smuggling ring landing drugs in the district, and also the unfortunate disappearance of the Irish policeman's new partner McBride (Rory Keenan) on his first day on the job. Sgt Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) has not much interest in pursuing the drug smugglers, much to the frustrating bewilderment of the FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle), while police corruption and misinformation befuddle the investigation.

The film is smartly edited by Chris Gill and the use of spaghetti-western music adds considerably to the whacky and unpredictable feel of the movie. The Guard is an endearing and unpretentious non-formula comedic drama loaded with intriguing characters. The villains are particularly fascinating, arguing over quotes of various philosophers or trying to define the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath. And while Brendan Gleeson seems to have been made for this role, Don Cheadle is a fine foil to the Garda, and his comic timing is exceptional. The Guard is very entertaining and offbeat cinema.

The Guard will be screened at the Star Court Theatre on Sunday, March 4, at 5.30pm and Friday, March 9, at 7.30pm.

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