The fact that you don’t know what Brendan Gleeson’s Sergeant Gerry Boyle is thinking saves The Guard. The contrast couldn’t be bigger between the small-town Irish policeman with a sloppy investigative style and the smartly dressed, überkorrekt FBI agent with whom he finds himself looking into an international drug smuggling case – and it’s milked for a seemingly interminable number of jokes and comments about blacks and whites, Irish and Americans, provincialism and big city life.
The question is: does Boyle know that most of what he’s saying to his colleague is offensive? Is he simply taking the piss out of uptight Agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle), or is he a kind of ignorant savant, dancing elegantly on the line where funny ends and bad taste begins?
Or maybe he’s just an insensitive asshole. Gleeson keeps you guessing, and that’s good, because Cheadle can’t hold a candle to him in the acting department (although he clearly tries), so that the two contrary cops never develop into equal counterparts.
In addition, there are a few surprising twists and turns, mostly involving the Irish sergeant’s role in his community that might evoke such different films as The Big Easy and Hot Fuzz – it’s enough at any rate to make The Guard an enjoyable diversion.
The Guard | Directed by John Michael McDonagh (Ireland 2011) with Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle. Starts September 22