Christmas at the McDonagh house must be a laugh riot. I can only imagine with writer-director brothers John Michael and Martin McDonagh around the table, the ribald humor, malicious practical jokes, and cutting wit must make the holidays naughty and bright. Martin McDonagh wrote and directed 2008’s hilarious mobster, travel, buddy, dark comedy In Bruges starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. In Bruges pairs two hired killers, laying low after a botched job. Gleeson wants to take in a bit of culture, while the restless philistine played by Farrell picks up a girl, makes fun of a midget, and gets into more trouble with their profane boss played by Ralph Fiennes. The Guard is very much in the same vein as In Bruges, a genre mash up with a spark of irreverence and a steady stream of expletives, racial slurs, and odd phrases- all making for a good time at the cinema.
Brendan Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a Galway policeman investigating a rare murder in their sleepy town. Gerry’s a rascal, while being a decent, seasoned officer of the law. He enjoys getting a rise out of people and throwing them off to exploit their weaknesses. When greeting his new partner with an outstretched coffee, Gerry takes a sip, throws it to the ground and says, “Fuckin latte’s my drink.” Gerry takes everything in jest, which may be the way he can see through the artifice to the truth. A brutal murder in quiet Galway grabs the attention of Dublin and even the FBI, sending Don Cheadle’s Wendell Everett to Gerry’s turf to investigate drug traffickers suspected of the crime. Gerry and Wendell exchange insults and come to a respectful understanding.
The baddies are even more fun with Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong as erudite, psychopathic killers discussing their favorite philosophers in the car before going out and shooting someone. They like the money, but the drug game offers no intellectual stimulation. Manipulating the cops is too easy and the other criminals are too daft for them. Mark Strong is particularly funny as the Brit in the crew, bemused by the half wit cops and itching for some real action. In a shootout, Strong’s character declares being fired upon with an assualt rifle “Better than fuckin’ Christmas.”
Clever Gerry is on to their game and gets Wendell to join him for a bloody shootout. Bad guys lose, good guys win. Besides being hilarious, The Guard has a nicely plotted story, some genuine emotional moments, and is a great dark comedy. Cheadle and Gleeson reminded me a little bit of Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in In The Heat of the Night. They negotiate their differences and find they ascribe to the same code- the code of Real Police: when justice is the goal, f*&k the route (Alert *The Wire reference*). They’re good together, but this is Brendan Gleeson’s film. He gives a great performance as the surly and surprising Gerry with his cheshire grins and enraged scowls. Cheadle’s character says to Gleeson, “I can’t tell if you’re really motherfuckin dumb or really motherfuckin smart.” Gleeson’s Gerry plays with your perceptions constantly, making the film a delight.