The Guard

How do you maintain your sanity during mundane work hours? Do you play games online, read random articles (like this one), steal creamer or encase your coworker’s stapler in Jell-o? If you’re like Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) in The Guard, you mask your boredom with a heightened sarcasm and partake in the luxuries provided by hookers.


Sergeant Boyle is in charge of policing a small town in rural Ireland where not much happens, to say the least. That is, until one day he, along with a new colleague from Dublin, finds a man shot in the head with multiple symbolic markings and objects around him. As it turns out, this murder is only the beginning of a complex drug smuggling scheme that brings in FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) from that backwards country across the Atlantic.

Similar to In Bruges – partially (mostly) due to the McDonagh brothers’ involvement – The Guard is uproariously funny with a slight hint of absurdity for good measure. The humor is undeniably dark, sarcastic, satirical and bitter. Gleeson spews off-handed racist remarks and pop culture reference laden jabs as he portrays Boyle’s intense boredom with an enviable smoothness.

From believing drug smugglers are “only black lads…and Mexicans” to drawing in a coloring book instead of taking down pertinent information, Sergeant Boyle is one giant, hilarious satire of film cops. As we find out over the course of the film, Boyle may be completely overqualified for his position, but he seems to relish the lack of true responsibility in exchange for a more free-spirited life, which he uses liberally with vacation days to spend time with aforementioned hookers or go to Disneyworld by himself.

Obviously, there needs to be a stabilizing character to counteract Boyle’s unique brand of cynicism. In comes Wendell Everett, the uptight and bureaucratic American. Don Cheadle takes this role and makes it his own by adding in his comedic stylings that have made Marty Kaan a great character in House of Lies. The Wendell-Gerry conversations are excellent throughout and never disappoint for amusing social commentaries.

Moving to the bad guys and the film style, how often are drug smugglers portrayed quoting Bertrand Russell and Nietzsche? Well, in The Guard we get intellectual criminals in the form of Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong, who I’ve always liked from RocknRolla to Kick-Ass, Sherlock Holmes and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. They continue the smart humor set in motion by Boyle and add to the sense that the entire movie is simply mocking the typical action drama.

Combine all of this with great Irish scenery, wacky interior design and an eclectic soundtrack that is similar to Kill Bill and you’ve got one hell of a film. You’ll even get an amazing quote that can completely be used in any situation regardless of appropriateness: “Like a donkey f**kin’ a hippopotamus, it’s party time.” Here’s to hoping Gleeson continues making comedies.

  1. This movie was hysterical! This and In Bruges are probably my favorite Gleeson films as of late. The humor is so blunt I love it. The fact that he is so unconventional but at the same time a stereotypical small town cop was great. Plus the banter between him and Don Cheadle’s character was priceless. I’m sure filming some of those scenes must have been damn hard considering how convincingly Gleeson delivered some of the most racist jokes I have ever heard. I too hope Gleeson sticks to these sort of comedies. Awesome review!

    • I can’t even imagine filming those scenes. Gleeson was so straight-faced there’s no way Cheadle or someone on the crew didn’t bust up and ruin the scene. Thanks for reading!

  2. Loved this movie!

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