For More Comedy From Brendan Gleeson, Watch ‘The Guard’

In 2008, Brendan Gleeson starred alongside fellow Irish actor Colin Farrell in Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges which has enjoyed so much success as a cult favorite that the three reunited for 2022’s The Banshees of Inisherin. In the meantime, Gleeson starred in two films by Martin’s brother, John Michael McDonagh. This filmmaker, known for writing and directing the bleak drama Calvary (which also stars Gleeson) also helmed the 2011 comedy The Guard, which stars Gleeson as an unorthodox Irish cop, or “guard” as they are called in Ireland. Gleeson’s Sergeant Gerry Boyle is a Connemara policeman with a not-so-sunny disposition. The crude and confrontational grump is even seen partaking in drugs and alcohol on several instances, even while on the job. However, between Gleeson’s layered performance, and McDonagh’s clever writing, they are able to ground this character as a balanced man with a softer side to him, by displaying his care and affection for his mother, Eileen (Fionnula Flanagan).

‘The Guard’s Opening Tells Us Everything We Need to Know

The film opens with a group of young troublemakers speeding through the countryside in a red car. They speed past Sergeant Boyle who is camping out with his speed camera, on duty. When he catches up with the car, however, it has overturned, killing everyone inside. The policeman is extremely unfazed by the incident, seemingly uneager to call it in just yet, and proceeds to check the victims’ pockets. Finding drugs, he mumbles to himself, “I don’t think your mammy’ll be too pleased about that now,” before consuming the contraband himself, in uniform. Cue title: “THE GUARD.

‘The Guard’s Humour Is Unapologetically Dark

The film’s story begins when Boyle arrives to investigate a murder at a cottage. On this occasion, he is joined by a new subordinate from Dublin, Aidan McBride (Rory Keenan). McBride is the antithesis of Boyle. A young, green, and enthusiastic policeman, keen to do his job by the book, while still being open-minded to the possibilities of the murder being linked to a serial killer or even the occult, having clearly been exposed to more twisted crimes in the big city. Boyle, however, leans over the corpse, touching its genitalia, and when McBride calls him out, Boyle lies, “I have the gift. Did nobody tell you? Clairvoyant, like.” He is making fun of the straight-laced, open-minded McBride at the expense of disrespecting the dead and tampering with the crime scene. When McBride calls Boyle’s actions inappropriate, Boyle scoffs, telling McBride that if he wants appropriate, he should go to America, in a hilarious scene that climaxes with an unexpected uttering of “Barack Obama!”

Image Via Element Pictures

This early scene establishes that this character, and by virtue, this film, indeed has a sense of humor, even if it isn’t the kind you’d expect. Boyle may be a grump, but he’s not above a laugh, and in his interaction with McBride, he is telling the audience that this is the film’s humor – it’s bleak – either get with it or get going! With Sergeant Boyle, you know where you stand from the start. Another thing this scene establishes is that the film will pit Boyle against another member of law enforcement who contradicts his whole mantra, making for a hilarious double-act in this buddy-cop caper. The relationship is reminiscent of Gleeson’s turn opposite Colin Farrell in both their Martin McDonagh features, however, this film’s two-hander ends up being Gleeson’s character and Don Cheadle‘s FBI Agent Wendell Everett, not Rory Keenan’s McBride.

The ‘Odd Couple’ Relationship Between Gerry and Wendell

Cheadle plays FBI Agent Wendell Everett, who is on the hunt for four Irish drug traffickers led by Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (Game of Thrones‘ Ser Davos, Liam Cunningham). Everett believes these men to be awaiting a massive shipment of cocaine from Jamaica and hopes to liaise with the Irish Police (or “Gardaí”) and intercept the hand-off, arresting the four men. During a briefing in which Boyle rudely suggests “I thought only black lads were drug dealers,” he eventually admits that he was toying with Everett, revealing that he recognizes one of the suspects as the murder victim from the cottage. Gleeson’s partnership with Cheadle, and other more conventional characters throughout the movie, gives fans of In Bruges and The Banshees of Inisherin more odd-couple antics from the actor. As well as this, English actor Mark Strong stars as the cockney culprit Clive Cornell, in a role reminiscent of Ralph Fiennes‘ Harry in In Bruges. Rounding off the exceptional cast is a then-lesser-known Dominique McElligott, famed now for her role as Queen Maeve in The Boys. The Irish actress plays one of two sex workers Boyle hires to entertain him during his day off, while dressed in police uniforms.

Dominique McElligott, Sarah Greene, and Brendan Glesson in The Guard
Image Via Element Picture

‘The Guard’ Offers a Different Take on the Rogue Cop

Brendan Gleeson is an actor known for versatile roles in many films across the board. His role in The Guard, however, is a stand-out, not only in comparison to his other performances but also in comparison to other representations of police officers. Sergeant Gerry Boyle is a grumpy man, more than happy to bend rules to his own whim, but not in the way we might expect. Less akin to the now-common rogue hothead cops we might see in geezer-teasers like The Shield or Banshee, which may prove problematic nowadays, what makes Gerry so interesting is that he is a man so content in his life and role. He sees no shame in enjoying his scheduled day off despite an ongoing international drug investigation, and spends the day with the friendly aforementioned sex workers from Dublin.

Gerry is the embodiment of self-aware and self-care, despite his unorthodox methods and preferences, but the film never judges him as such, as he still manages to coolly win the day and do his job nobly, even if not by the book. Rule-breaking police officers are not the most in-demand of media content anymore in light of recent events, but The Guard does well to steer clear of the trope of a cop who breaks the rules to see brutal justice brought to suspects. Instead, he is a man with his own set of morals (some legal, some less so), whose priority is to hurt fewer people, not more. He has a dark sense of humor and is only planning on enjoying his quiet life the way he wants to, and if he is able to solve the crime while he’s at it, then even better!

This interesting character piece is a hilarious look at the stereotype of a man with deep roots in his area, and no ambition to leave. For that reason, it rings a bell for fans of The Banshees of Inisherin. Gleeson’s subtle and grounded comedic performance is essentially just a remarkably-realized dramatic one, in which his understanding of this very specific character is enough to let the great writing do most of the talking. His reactions to those more normal people around him shed new light on the irony in some of our more instinctual reactions, putting the joke on us, not on himself. Therefore, fans of the McDonaugh comedies and Gleeson’s performances especially will be glad to discover The Guard.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button