Watching Brendan Gleeson snort, snarl and swear is always good fun. But watching him do it opposite the likes of Don Cheadle is a rare treat indeed. The two talented men lead a fantastic cast in “The Guard,” the new black-as-coal crime comedy from writer-director John Michael McDonagh.
Gleeson stars as Sgt. Gerry Boyle, a man who loves drugs almost as much as he loves hookers, and who’s sensibilities are so far short of PC, that un-PC doesn’t begin to describe it—he’s pre-PC.
“I’m Irish, sir. Racism is part of my culture,” Boyle explains to Cheadle’s FBI Agent Wendell Everett, his attempt at apologizing for expressing disbelief that there are white drug dealers.
Everett is in Galway, Ireland, on the trail of four men believed to be bringing in a half-billion dollars worth of cocaine. When he tries to enlist Boyle’s help in solving a murder that’s believed to be related to the shipment, the sergeant says no, insisting it’s his day off.
In addition to having previously written “Ned Kelly,” McDonagh is the brother of playwright Martin McDonagh, who directed in Gleeson in “In Bruges,” another darkly comic film about crooks. One shudders to think what it’s like at the McDonagh home around the holidays. Like his brother Martin, John Michael has a relentlessly morbid sense of humor.
“You being in the FBI, you’re more used to shooting unarmed women and children,” Boyle quips to Everett at one point.
The interplay between Gleeson and Cheadle is magic, as the former fires off insult after insult, and the latter locks his jaw in disbelief, only periodically recovering his senses enough to offer a rejoinder. Rounding out the cast are veteran thugs like Mark Strong and Liam Cunningham who provide the proceedings with even more bite.
In many ways a send up of the crime drama, and riddled with viciously funny potshots at America, “The Guard” is a gleefully mean-spirited film that pits two great actors against one another.