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The Guard

by Leonard Maltin
July 29, 2011 4:16 AM
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This movie made me smile and even laugh out loud. In fact, it gave me more pleasure than any aliens, robots or superheroes have all summer. That’s because it’s doggedly offbeat and completely original. It also provides a showcase for two fine actors, Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

Gleeson may be known to a wide audience as Mad Eye Moody in the Harry Potter series, but I think of him as the rock-solid star of such films as The General and In Bruges. He’s an actor who can effortlessly command the screen, as he does here playing a true iconoclast, a boorish policeman in the Irish seaside town of Connemara who is an enigma to—

—everyone around him—especially his colleagues. He’s not the likeliest asset to an American FBI agent assigned to intercept a big, international drug deal. But, as it turns out, Gleeson is incorruptible.

Cheadle mostly plays straight-man to Gleeson in this odd-couple pairing, but his character is far from routine. He’s an exceptional American lawman who thinks he’s on top of things until he encounters the wary, tight-lipped citizens of Connemara, and the wildly unpredictable cop who may or may not be in a position to help him.

Admittedly, writer-director John Michael McDonagh (whose brother Martin wrote and directed In Bruges) goes out of his way to bring quirks to every character and every scene in his film—even in his highly stylized production design—but it’s all in the cause of outlandish amusement. The bad guys, for instance, are no ordinary thugs, but an incongruously intellectual trio (played by the formidable actors Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, and David Wilmot) who engage in cerebral conversations.

This is my idea of fresh, invigorating entertainment for grownups…and it earns its R rating honestly.

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  • Patrick M. Gouin | January 1, 2012 6:39 PMReply

    An Irish black comedy for sure. All Irish stereotypes are on display and forcibly at that. A difficult film to classify but definitely fascinating. Fast paced action with layered characters. Gleeson and Cheadle are very good as opposites attract.

  • Tuigim | December 26, 2011 7:53 PMReply

    Give Brendan the Oscar. No one comes close!

  • Mike C | September 4, 2011 4:15 AMReply

    This is the best movie so far this year. Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle are great.

  • mike schlesinger | August 16, 2011 8:41 AMReply

    Right on, Leonard. I hope Gleeson gets an Oscar nomination for his all-stops-out performance.

    I must quibble with one point: you said it's "completely original." Think about it: fat, racist, small-town white cop forced to team up with cool, intellectual black cop (or in this case, FBI agent) to solve a crime. Offensive remarks slowly give way to grudging respect. Why, it's a Gaelic IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT!

  • Jason | July 29, 2011 4:28 AMReply

    Excellent! I can't wait to see this one! After 'In Bruges' I'll see anything with Brendan Gleeson in it!

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