Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh
Starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle
If you like Martin McDonagh’s dark sense of humor (“In Bruges,” the short film “Six Shooter”), check out “The Guard,” written and directed by his brother John Michael McDonagh. Though it leaves you vaguely dissatisfied, “The Guard” is worth watching simply for the pleasure of seeing Brendan Gleeson, who usually plays supporting characters, in a tailor-fit lead role.
Gleeson stars as Gerry Boyle, an eccentric, enigmatic small-town Irish cop. In the first five minutes, we see him take a tab of ecstasy that he filches off a dead body. In another scene, he flicks a corpse’s toe and proceeds to smell his finger. He loves to casually drop offensive comments that ruffle his colleagues’ feathers.
When enlisted by FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to help investigate a local multi-million dollar drug ring, Boyle gets on the agent’s nerves by dropping racist comments and flouting police procedure. One moment Boyle appears provincial and irreverent, the next moment he seems worldly and respectful. At one point, his befuddled FBI cohort echoes your own sentiment by wondering if Boyle is an idiot or a genius. As the film progresses, you get the sense it’s the latter.
Gleeson has a terrific face that’s both homely and amiable, and he plays Boyle with an instantly likeable what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude. Cheadle, meanwhile, is an ideal straight man. “The Guard” isn’t as brash and bold as it tries to be, and the dark humor can feel a bit strained, but Gleeson is absolutely perfect. If you’re a fan of character studies, this is one fine specimen.