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BERLINALE 2011 Panorama Special / Ireland-UK-Argentina

Gleeson shines in McDonagh’s humorous The Guard


John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard [+see also:
film review
interview: John Michael McDonagh
film profile
is a quirky buddy-cop film with an excellent cast led by magnificent Brendan Gleeson, fast-paced and with a rarely-seen quantity of witty dialogues.

Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a police sergeant in a small coastal town in the west of Ireland. Boyle pops acid from the pocket of a car-crash victim, drinks on duty, rents prostitutes from Dublin and thinks in racial stereotypes (“I’m Irish, racism is a part of my culture”), but he is not a Harvey Keitel character from Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. His heart is in the right place, which will be proven in the investigation of trafficking of $500m worth of cocaine.

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The investigation is led by FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), the only straight-faced character in the film. Everybody else, including the drug traffickers (Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and David Wilmot), take part in McDonagh’s fast and illustrious dialogue, which includes a lot of fresh politically incorrect jokes, cultural references to Ireland, the UK and the US, and unexpected philosophical musings from the criminals.

Before Everett arrives, a young man is found dead by a new police officer (Rory Keenan) soon to be discarded by the drug gang. When Everett presents the case to the local police force, Boyle immediately recognizes the victim as one of the traffickers. This is where the buddy-cop part begins, as the men’s relationship grows from animosity to liking, if not all-out friendship.

This is the engine that pushes the film’s dynamics and emotional attachment of the audience, with Gleeson shining as never before – and he has had a considerable share of impressive roles in the past. Cheadle’s serious impatience heightens the effect.

Co-produced by the UK’s Reprisal Films, Prescience, and Aegis Film Fund; Ireland’s Element Pictures; the US Crescendo Productions; with funding from Irish Film Board and UK Film Council; The Guard is handled by Metropolis International Sales.

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