JT Film Review

The Guard (2011)

The Guard Review
Review # 152

4/5 stars

Director – John Michael McDonagh

Cast – Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan, Laurence Kinlan


The Guard first came to my attention because the director, John Michael McDonagh, is the brother of the director of one of my favourite movies, In Bruges. That movie also starred Brendan Gleeson. My expectations were up, and I hoped for something akin to the dark humour and bleak tone of the former. While it definitely retains a dark sense of humour, the tone doesn’t seem as consistent, or as defined.

Of course, it is a bad habit (of which I am constantly guilty) to judge a movie merely because another one did something better. And while this isn’t as sharp as In Bruges (by a long shot), it is still a good movie. To be good rather than “Great” isn’t a horrible thing.

Plot wise, we follow Brendan Gleeson’s gleefully un-PC Irish cop (or “Garda”). He has been partnered with an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle), who is in Ireland to hunt down a gang of drug traffickers. In accordance with cop movie tradition they are two very different people. Gleeson is “unconventional”, while Cheadle goes by the book. Gleeson doesn’t mind making snide little jokes to Cheadle about his skin colour, and Cheadle has to try to learn to take them as a joke, as they are meant. Their relationship isn’t as “buddy cop” as a Riggs and Murtaugh, but the elements are there.

Brendan Gleeson is the standout in the film, of course, as he usually is. With his dry wit, cheeky jokes, and general orneriness, he creates an enormously fun character. It is a joy to watch Don Cheadle’s FBI agent do his best to keep up. He doesn’t succeed of course, but that’s the point of his character. He just sits by, rolls his eyes, and tries to catch Gleeson when he decides to come back to Earth once in a while.

The trio of drug traffickers are played play Mark Strong, David Wilmot, and Liam Cunningham. Again, poor Mark Strong, doing the villain thing. You can’t deny, he’s good at it. Here we get the impression he doesn’t like the job he finds himself doing. He’s disgusted by bent cops, and wishes for a special relationship. We don’t find him sympathetic, though, he sneers his lines out in a delicious way. He really is one of the best villain actors I can think of.

All in all, the best I can do is reiterate that importance of Gleeson’s character to the movie. As the main character of course he carries a lot of the weight anyway, but the uniqueness of the character he creates can not be under estimated. He is the heart of the movie, and the success of the ambiguous way in which the movie ends can be attributed mainly to him. A strong actor with a strong script is a wonderful thing to see.


The Guard is a dark, witty, and unique movie, whose success is due mainly to Brendan Gleeson’s wonderful turn as Sergeant Gerry Boyle. This is not to underestimate the other actors, Cheadle in particular. For those who enjoy an ambiguous ending, dark humour, and smart writing, this movie is for you.



“The Guard” on other trailers:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



April 15, 2012 - Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Crime, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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