Lying somewhere in between Intermission and In Bruges, together with a certain Cohen-like quality to the characters, The Guard delivers a series of belly-holding laughs along with a stellar performance from Brendan Gleeson as the slightly simple Sergeant Gerry Boyle.
The Guard is full of that no-bullshit, bluntly ignorant humour, though not quite reaching the darkest shades of its Belgian counterpart. Psychopaths, corruption, ignorance, prostitution, cancer, suicide, insensitivity to the disabled; all similar themes that threaded through the beautiful but boring streets of Bruge three years ago; but the latest McDonagh brothers creation produces a hilarious new character in Gerry Boyle, ignorant Garda extremified.
Criminality is a central pillar all all three scripts of the most prominent Irish films of the last ten years, this time Guard trades Intermission's double-decker bus crash with an exploding ship.
Like In Bruges, settings for the absurd situations Boyle gets himself into vary between the beautiful and the bleak, using the strands of Salthill for multiple wide angles, and bogs in the narrows, as well as contrasting the luxury of the G Hotel with a dinghy little pub in the middle of nowhere.
FBI agent Wendell Everett, played by the surprising casting of Hollywood star Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Iron Man 2), gives Boyle a complete opposite to bounce off; a well educated, high-ranking agent thrown together with an "independent" rural Garda who thought all drugdealers "were either black or Mexican", in an unlikely partnership.
Similarly to the Cohen brothers, the McDonaghs clearly have liking for dramatising remote areas, the "sinister in the familiar theme" of No Country For Old Men and Fargo, permeating the less travelled tourist destination Bruges, and The Guard's scenic but remote Galway coast.
It doesn't reach In Bruges' legendary status, but The Guard is definitely worth the cinema ticket for Brendan Gleeson's performance alone, and I'd probably even give it a second look when it's on RTE next year.
3/5 star rating.