Sundance 2011: Review - THE GUARD

If you've seen In Bruges (which I'd highly recommend) and enjoyed that movie, chances are pretty good you'll like The Guard. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of Martin McDonagh, writer/director of In Bruges), the film stars Brendan Gleeson as a small town Irish policeman, Don Cheadle as an American FBI agent sent to work a murder case, and Mark Strong as a drug dealer with principles.

Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is "an unconventional police officer": he does drugs and regularly purchases time with hookers. He seems bored with his life, not really finding much meaning to the rut he's fallen into. But when a murder shakes up his tiny Irish town and word of $500 million in drug money enters the picture, he finds new life in his work relationship with the newly arrived FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle). Boyle makes it his mission to mess with Everett at every turn, spending more time boozing around and spewing politically incorrect stereotypical slurs than actually attempting to do any policework. Things eventually turn dramatic with the death of a fellow police officer, and Boyle finds the initiative to solve the case.

The humor in this film is very reminiscent of In Bruges: subtle and equally as funny in its silences as its outbursts. McDonagh was able to craft a buddy cop film that plays on the genre's conventions and subverts them often enough to cause even the most cynical audience member to raise an eyebrow. Much like Shane Black's wonderful Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the characters in this film feel as if they know they're in a movie. Boyle wonders aloud why cops don't put out APB's anymore; thugs drop ridiculous one liners amongst themselves and are called out by fellow thugs about how their lines don't make any sense; a man asks Everett if the phrase “liquidate people” means mobsters actually turn people into liquid. (There's also a gag with a Derringer that was straight out of KKBB.) This self-awareness reminded me a lot of Hot Fuzz and the way Edgar Wright was able to both comment on and add to the buddy cop genre at the same time; The Guard does the same thing, though leans a bit more on the darker side than Wright's exuberant celebration of excess.

Though the film itself isn't exactly action packed, the climax of this movie is pretty awesome (I obviously won't ruin it for you). The audacious opening scene was also worth noting, since I don't think I've seen a film that opens quite this way before. This is the first directorial feature for McDonagh, but he wrote Gregor Jordan's Ned Kelly, which stars Heath Ledger and which we actually talked about on an episode of The Not Just New Movies Podcast. Though it's just the second day of the festival for us here at GeekTyrant, The Guard is easily one of my favorite films of Sundance 2011 so far.