Movie Review: The Guard

By Stephen Rebello

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Don Cheadle and Breandan Gleeson star in this Irish comedy thriller.


Director: John Michael McDonagh  Rating: R Studio: Reprisal Films

The Guard is a brand new fish-out-of-water buddy cop comedy thriller. What is this, the 1980s? But don’t stop reading and do check out the movie—because it's snappy, dry, smart and eccentrically funny.

A debut feature written and directed with smarts and deadpan panache by John Michael McDonagh (his playwright-screenwriter brother brilliantly wrote In Bruges), the film mismatches a surly career cop from a sleepy Irish seaside village (Brendan Gleeson) and a dapper, well-educated FBI agent (Don Cheadle) led by the murder of Gleeson’s rookie cop partner to a trio of international cocaine runners. No one’s going to accuse The Guard of reinventing the genre. But it’s so funny, crammed with quirky, off-kilter characters, locations and details, let’s just say that no American director should get anywhere within a mile of doing a remake.

Beautifully shot by Larry Smith, the film provides a field day for Gleeson, who is, as usual, brilliant, this time playing an idiot savant who unapologetically spouts racist bile, parties with hot young escorts, takes drugs and barely bothers to do his job. The character could come off as despicable but Gleeson keeps throwing the audience with curveball glimpses of pathos, especially when he’s sparring with Cheadle or dealing unsentimentally with his ailing mother (a just-right Fionnula Flanagan). As the script has Cheadle observe of Gleeson, “I can’t tell if you’re really motherfucking dumb or really motherfucking dumb.” Exactly. Good stuff, well played.

About the Author

Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interview and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.


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