30 August 2011
Brendan Gleeson’s comic timing is nothing new, but in The Guard he truly shows his abilities to deliver a deadpan line and make the audience roar with laughter. There were plenty of laughters yesterday at the cinema as Gleeson’s smart-or-dumb Garda delivers one racist joke after another. The characters that crowd his small world try too hard to keep up with him, but he takes the film away and carries it on his broad shoulders.
Yet, something is amiss … and that’s the story. Despite the jokes, Gleeson’s performance and the idyllic (and rainy) Irish setting doesn’t make this more than a TV movie that is a little above average.
When a multinational drug gang happens at the doorsteps of the sleepy Irish town of Connemara, Sgt. Gerry Boyle is teamed up with Don Cheadle’s FBI agent, Wendell Everett. How does Wendell agree to team up with Boyle is a mystery after the latter’s hilariously blunt racist jokes about black people and drug dealers. Yet, for the sake of the story (and sadly without any apparent obligation), the two take on the trio of dug dealers about to hit the town.
The problem is not so much that the FBI agent coming to a sleepy Irish town and teaming up with a Garda for a drug bust, but that nothing in the guise of investigation or ‘action’ really take place. Things just meander from one funny scene to a less funny one. This is also crucial: it is funny, but not that funny. Everett is a boring character and I wish he was more of a caricature. Perhaps for fear of making things too formulaic, the writer-director John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges helmer Martin McDonagh) provides the lines, but not the plot.
Yet, it is hard not to like Boyle - he is given plenty of material and develops as a character before your eyes. The backstory with his dying mother feels out of place, but adds a lot of heart and emotion to a story that clealy lacks them. His sexual exploits with callgirls are beautifully downplayed. Yet, the storyline about his missing new partner feels like an afterthought. Despite McDonagh’s best efforts to humanise that, it falls short.
All in all, The Guard is a very funny film, but falls short of what it could really have achieved. Better than Perrier’s Bounty, but nowhere near as good as In Bruges.