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Film Review: The Guard

The Guard
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, David Wilmot, Pat Shortt.
Review by Sue Murphy
Winner of the Best Debut Film at the Berlin International Film Festival and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, The Guard has been bringing down the house at international screenings.  Receiving its Irish Premiere, fittingly, at the Galway Film Fleadh, McDonagh’s story of the “small town cop” Detective Sergeant Gerry Boyle, continues on its mission to become one of the most successful Irish films and to prove that the Irish are not only good at comedy, they excel at it.

Detective Sergeant Gerry Boyle is, as he describes himself, the “last of the independents.”  Living a secluded and routine driven lifestyle in Connemara, Boyle has largely been forgotten by the big boys in Galway and basically, pleases himself.  Having had no one to answer to for a considerable period of his career, his habitual living is turned upside down when FBI agent Wendell Everett calls a meeting of the local Gardai in Galway to involve them in the investigation of a cocaine-smuggling ring.  While the enquiries continue, Boyle’s life runs in parallel, his nights out in Galway “whoring” with agency girls, his drug sampling and his affectionate relationship with his deteriorating mother.  Despite his aloof and indifferent attitude to the case, Boyle keeps finding himself dragged further and further into its unravelling.  Nevertheless, he does possess morals, and when his fellow officer’s wife turns up on his doorstep asking for help, he can no longer ignore the situation that the city boys from Dublin are unable to resolve.

Where can I possibly start with an actual review for a film that blew me away and left me laughing to myself at intervals when I remembered glorious interchanges between Wendell and Gerry.  You see, I am from Galway and I have met Gerry Boyle.  He’s the guard that has thrown us out of the Spanish Arch on a Saturday night, while wagging his finger at us because we haven’t really done anything that bad.  He’s the guard that has warned us about hotel after-hours but shows up the following night for drinks.  He’s the guard that promises he’ll go home to your mother if he ever hears you’re acting up again, and it’s true because he knows her.  They have a chat outside the shops every week.  In the same way that Graham Linehan got it so right with characters in Father Ted, John Michael McDonagh has hit the mark with an unbelievably accurate representation of the West in all its glory, which somehow does not insult the locals.  Rather by the end, Gerry Boyle has been placed on a pedestal, a local hero.  The script is hilarious, displaying that rather than being compared to In Bruges, The Guard should stand as a film of its own.  This is the performance of Gleeson’s career, he was born to play the role of Boyle, his accent, wit and humour is right on the mark and its unfathomable to imagine anyone else playing the part.  He is, however, backed up by a staggeringly brilliant support cast in Liam Cunningham, Don Cheadle and David Wilmot among others.

On occasion, the Irish film can look, at times, awkward on screen.  The Guard flows beautifully, hilariously funny and touching in parts, it’s no wonder it has been hailed as one of the finest comedies to come out of the country.

McDonagh brothers, keep ‘em coming!

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