Film Review: THE GUARD

Directed and Written by John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendson Gleeson, Don Cheedle, Liam Cunningham, Rory Keegan, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan

Brendon Gleeson is one of the many fine British/Irish actors that appear in dozens of movies before most Americans know their name. This system of grooming actors, through TV and small parts, deprives us of having seen some of them in their youth, but since IN BRUGES, I have been waiting for another chance to find Gleeson in a major role. And this one was a dandy.

PLOT: Gleeson plays Sgt. Gerry Boyle who is not above searching the pockets of the victim of a motor accident before he reports it. But a scene later, we change our mind about his character a bit when we see how he cares for his dying mother (Flanagan). Life in The Guarda in his small town is an easy one until a new partner (Keenan) decides to treat work a bit differently when a big drug deal comes their way.

The FBI sends in an agent (Don Cheedle). Boyle has a good time trying out every piece of racist thinking on his new associate. It is unclear if he believes every black man is from a ghetto or if he is using this to keep Cheedle off-guard. Cheedle, in his usual top-notch performance, keeps us both from disliking Gleeson or in feeling sorry for a black man in Ireland.

This is not meant to be a serious film about drugs or even a serious film about catching drug dealers. Instead we get a very literate, quirky and witty look at a character, a bunch of drug dealers who argue over the use of the language, and background characters who add to the fun. When the final scene turns a bit more serious, we are caught up in it and several earlier scenes fall into place. The Guard is a fun film on all levels.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.