In Bruges was one of my favourite films of 2008, so when I heard that John McDonagh, the brother of playwright cum writer-director Martin McDonagh who was responsible for that film, had also ventured into features with his directorial debut, The Guard, my interest was piqued.
Of course, it would be unfair to judge a film based solely on a sibling connection (just ask Tony Scott), certainly when The Guard, for all its intrinsically Irish, dark-streaked humour, love of dialogue and odd couple dynamics, pales in comparison to In Bruges. Not that it's a bad film, it's just not as good; In Bruges has all of those mentioned elements but deploys them far more effectively.
Brendan Gleeson (who also starred in In Bruges) plays Sgt Gerry Boyle, the law enforcer in his small coastal Irish town. He's not corrupt or even a bad guy, but he has his own interpretation of the law, one which him allows him to turn a blind eye to IRA gunrunning and indulge in both hookers and drugs (hey, guards are people too!).
But when his new deputy is murdered by big time drug importers (two of whom are played by Liam Cunningham and perennial bad guy, Mark Strong), Boyle decides it's time to take a stand: one good guy against the world, or at least the constabulary since all the other law enforcers in the region are on the take from said drug runners.
But not FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), who has been tracking the half a billion dollar drug shipment, and has come to Ireland to seek the local law's assistance. Everett finds an unlikely ally and (eventual) friend in Boyle, whom he can't decide is either really smart or really stupid; forming an odd couple, buddy cop duo the prototype of which we've seen countless times before although not quite like this. Gleeson and Cheadle are the thinking person's Mel Gibson and Danny Glover from the Lethal Weapon series, if you will.
But John McDonagh's The Guard is, for all intents and purposes, a Western, reinforced by the insistent score by Calexico. There's even a showdown at the O.K. Corral (aka the local dock) where our heroes make their final stand.
Don't go in expecting In Bruges 2.0 (or even Lethal Weapon for that matter), and you're bound to have a good time with The Guard.