is a comedic, fish out of water tale of murder, blackmail, drug trafficking, and rural police corruption. Two cops (Gleeson and Cheadle) one an unorthodox Irish policeman and the other, a straitlaced FBI agent, must join forces to take on an international drug-smuggling gang.
Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) of Galway is crass and abrasive and interprets the law a bit freely, all to glorious comic effect. Paired with strait-laced American FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), Boyle seeks to solve a couple of murders and disrupt a massive drug shipment in what could have been a trashy fish-out-of-water buddy comedy--but, through a combination of sharp and witty writing, ruthlessly speedy editing, and understated but spot-on performances, The Guard
is a marvel of character-based storytelling. Gleeson (28 Days Later
, In Bruges
) and Cheadle are peerless actors, the kind who rarely star in blockbusters but who bring dynamic life to any scene they're in. The supporting cast is chock-full of off-kilter talent, turning even the most incidental role into a memorable character. Writer-director John Michael McDonagh makes a remarkably accomplished feature debut; The Guard
moves forward with gripping efficiency, yet every moment seems casual and often beside the point, crammed with colorful language, incidental comedy, and a deliciously eclectic soundtrack. The result is hugely entertaining. One of the best films of 2011. --Bret Fetzer