WatchingCattle checked out The Guard and found Brendan Gleeson to be very much the driver of this vehicle.
The words comedy and thriller go together in my mind like the words Martin and Lawerence or Michael and Bay or blow job and cheese grater. Apart from the odd gem (Big Lebowski for example…comic noir perhaps?) the whole genre trips up around the third act in which the film needs dramatic tension to work. The problem with most comedy thrillers is that by the time this third act arrives the film has either set out its stall as one or the other. In the case of a thriller the humor is usually extremely dark and so by the finale the move to thriller territory is usually already done halfway through and the laughs have all dried up ages ago or, in the case of comedy, the third act simply plays as a string of misfiring gags with no tension in which the characters bumble along through the motions – maybe there’s a gun, a chase and eventually the comedy dog, or whatever, sniffs out the bad guy et voilla you reach a conclusion and the laughs have also dried up ages ago.
The Guard is the work of John Michael McDonagh brother of Martin McDonagh writer and director of In Bruges (which is a comedy thriller and if you haven’t seen it you should because it’s excellent) and it’s a comedy thriller. And it’s excellent. From the outset The Guard is dark, very dark. This plays well in comedy thrillers as this darkness lends itself well to that crucial final third act. It’s cleverly scripted and has enough strands to pull together to make the plot work, well just about work. There aren’t any huge flaws in the plot, no massive holes that ruin the whole thing or anything, but it’s not exactly LA Confidential. The main plot which involves drug dealers and a fish out of water FBI agent in Connemara sent to find the half a billion euros worth of cocaine due to land somewhere along the coast. There is a touching subplot involving the guards mother which is top notch and yes, as a piece of storytelling, it does more then enough to escape the massive problems with the genre. But none of any of that matters a fuck anyway.
The Guard is funny. It’s very funny. It’s touching when it has to be and the quality of the writing is so high that at one stage our bad guys talk about the perils of their bad guying while staring out at sharks in a massive aquarium. In any other film this would seem like a shite James Bond parody but here it seems strangely fitting and like the rest of the film, very Irish. This film is very Irish – sure there’s an American thrown in but he’s only there to play the rest of the world and be bamboozled by the Irishness. This film is made for the Irish first and the rest of the world second and that works too. But none of that matters a fuck either. The performances of the supporting cast in particular Don Cheadle as the American and Liam Cunningham as the main Bad Guy are excellent but that doesn’t matter a fuck either.
All that matters is that Brendon Gleason is one of the finest actors on the planet and this may be his finest hour or two so far (though maybe not, as his performances in I Went Down and In Bruges are also absolutely excellent). He plays Sergant Gerry Boyle as though he knew him all his life, he elevates every scene he’s in to a level higher than you’ll see in any comedy thriller, possibly ever – and that is saying something as he’s in nearly every scene. Intelligent, prickish, difficult, funny, friendly and above all else charismatic – Boyle is as brilliant a comic creation as Withnail or The Dude. The laughs don’t dry up, there are plenty of funny lines and memorable characters, it’s entertaining and the ending doesn’t just abandon the tone of the rest of the film to wrap shit up.