The Guard (2011) Review

(Written by Courtney Ramsey)

In his first feature length film, up-and-coming director John Michael McDonagh slaps audiences in the face with his unconventional film in the best ways possible. Although there were times McDonagh went a little too far with his campy approach to touchy subjects he more than makes up for it with his writing style. The Guard is filmed in a very unique way; it knows when it is going to shock and it plays those moments out to their full potential. Sitting in my seat for the entire duration of the film was anything but hard. It has plenty of laughs and awkward moments to spice up the experience. Witty, funny and a little inappropriate; what more can one want in a film?

This unique story of an unorthodox Irish guard is a black comedy jam-packed with surprises from start to finish. Staring Brendan Gleeson as Sgt. Gerry Boyle, the main character’s small town mentality is shattered when three drug traffickers become involved with a missing person case. Boyle is forced to team up with authoritative American FBI agent, Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) in order to find his missing partner. An unexpected friendship forms from the pair that leads to more interesting twists and turns throughout the film. Feeling the need to help out his partner’s concerned wife, Boyle takes the missing person case with Agent Everett. Boyle quickly becomes familiar with the dirty side of the law when the smugglers abuse his favorite hooker to silence him and eventually try to pay him off, like they have every other Irish Guard. As the plot thickens, Gerry Boyle receives help from some very unlikely characters including one very pale, very strange young boy, all leading up to the creative and unexpected ending.

John Michael McDonagh’s first feature length film isn’t for the conservative moviegoer, using touchy subjects such as death, underage drinking and drug use as ice breakers from the get-go. Not for the easily offended or quick to judge. If audiences have the ability to get around the rough edges, pure genius of the writing itself shines through. McDonagh forces viewers out of their comfort zone and into his twisted, hilarious world. From the shocking opening to the unexpected end, this film is unlike any comedy American audiences have been exposed to for at least a decade. Comedy the Irish way! It takes a good sense of humor and a strong stomach to make it through the entire 96 minutes. The film is scattered with unnecessary gore and violence. For fans of awkward moments and straight humor dripping with unconventional satire; it’s perfect!

The entire film is full of shocking moments and more than interesting characters, but one in particular that has the potential to appeal to any and everyone in the audience is the savvy, humorous British drug trafficker, Clive Cornell (Mark Strong). Using raw British style humor, Cornell’s character stands out when compared to the rest of the cast, offering comic relief from the semi-serious situation. Brendan Gleeson offers a light-hearted approach to his character’s sticky situations as well. Gleeson uses his dry, straightforward acting style to enhance the appeal of his character.

McDonagh has not only made a personal statement with this film proving his worth in the entertainment industry as both a writer and a director, but he has set the standards for future 2011 comedies by straying away from the “comedic norm”. Breaking the worn out Hangover-style of comedy, McDonagh gives all audiences something to laugh about, cringe about and talk about long after they see the film.