RogerBW's Blog

The Guard 15 November 2018

2011 crime drama/comedy, dir. John Michael McDonagh, Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle; IMDb / allmovie. On the rural Connemara coast, Sergeant Gerry Boyle has no time for people who don't want to let him do things his own way, but he still gets the policing done. Now, with the possibility of a huge cargo of cocaine coming in, there's an FBI agent in town…

Which makes it sound like the setup for a tough-guy buddy comedy; but really, it isn't. Yes, Agent Wendell Everett does work with Boyle… briefly. And they shock each other with their world views; at least Boyle shocks Everett, but Boyle himself is essentially unmovable. He is what he is, and that's not always a very nice person, but he's OK with that.

This is much more Boyle's film than Everett's. In the opening scene he covers up a crime (removing the drugs from some kids who've crashed their car and died, because "I don't think your mammy would be too pleased about that now", not to mention wanting them for himself); he has a taste for booze and prostitutes, too; but, it turns out, he's the only Garda who can't be bribed or blackmailed off the case. Especially once his partner… well.

There's a certain amount of the filmic vocabulary of the Western, especially in the music; perhaps it's a little overplayed. Direction is generally fine, taking full advantage of the washed-out landscapes offered by the Galway and Wicklow countryside as well as some effectively claustrophobic interiors (always a challenge to film as you have to fit in all the cameras and lights while still making the set feel small).

Minor characters shine too, from Boyle's dying mother (Fionnula Flanagan) to the criminals: the philosopher (Liam Cunningham), the London hard man sinking into ennui, and the psychotic killer.

"I'm a sociopath, not a psychopath. They explained that to me at Mountjoy."

Not many films of this kind would bother to establish the bad guys and give them real character, but they too work as people. Indeed, they could carry a film of their own.

This is a very effective dark comedy, which presents an essentially unlikeable character and then gets the viewer to care about him enough to be concerned about what happens to him in the final confontation. That's a neat trick, and while it's not the kind of film I want to watch every week it works extremely well here.

Trailer here.

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  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 02:34pm on 15 November 2018

    Sociopath is the revised name for psychopath. I wish writers did their research better when referring to clinical diagnoses.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:11pm on 15 November 2018

    I think the writer assumed that people would in fact know that.

  3. Posted by Chris Bell at 03:34pm on 15 November 2018

    I simply thought the writer was playing up to something from Sherlock. "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath" has been said by Holmes more than once in the series.

  4. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 07:55pm on 15 November 2018

    Ah, Sherlock. That used to make me furious too. He would know the the two words meant the same thing.

  5. Posted by Chris Bell at 11:18am on 16 November 2018

    I was sure that he did, and was rebuking the various police and others who got it wrong. He was the sort of person who wouldn't find saying "Wrong word, dummy!" anything like as satisfactory.

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