August 1, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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THE GUARD – Worth A Ticket:  The Art of Performance, Crispy and Well-Done


I don’t know that there’s an actor in movies today more fun to watch than Brendan Gleeson.  Gleeson is probably best known for playing Mad-Eye Moody in several of the Harry Potter movies, but he’s been giving sensational performances since John Boorman’s The General, and has popped up in Hollywood pictures like Braveheart, AI, Gangs of New York and Green Zone. He’s a throwback, in a way, to the old-time Charles Laughton kind of actor, not because he’s also a big guy, settled in his flesh, but because he lets his joy in the art of acting inform his performances.  His work, even in very serious roles, puts a smile on your face.


In THE GUARD, Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a genially unprofessional policeman in a small Irish town.  Boyle isn’t corrupt, exactly, but he mostly doesn’t give a crap, not about solving crimes and certainly not about following procedure.  (He’s perfectly content to let a speeding car go by his observation post until it crashes off a nearby road.)  Boyle doesn’t just frequent prostitutes, he imports them from Dublin for cheerfully elaborate fantasies (the girls are the cops).  He finds his own insistent political incorrectness hilarious, and he’s a thorn in the side of just about anyone who has to deal with him.

Luckily for audiences, the person who has to deal with him most is another sterling actor:  Don Cheadle as FBI Agent Wendell Everett.  Everett, who hails from Wisconsin by way of the Ivy League, comes to town to hunt a $500M cocaine shipment (or maybe it’s $200M–everyone knows the cops exaggerate street value),and he’s as horrified by every sentence that comes out of Boyle’s mouth as he is disgusted by his work ethic; naturally, this is a buddy comedy.

Watching Gleeson and Cheadle banter John Michael McDonagh’s dialogue back and forth is like witnessing a Wimbledon championship match–each actor knows exactly how far he can push his character’s eccentricities, and each is a master at squeezing the maximum amount of sly juice out of every line.  Boyle deliberately provokes Everett just for the sport of it, and Everett knows he’s being played, but can’t help himself from responding; it’s predictable, and irresistible  If the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote had repartee, it might sound like this.


As a movie, The Guard is a fairly insubstantial riff on the Guy Ritchie Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels/Snatch black comic thriller mode.  (It even features Mark Strong, a Ritchie stalwart, as one of the villains.)  The picture doesn’t have the meat of In Bruges, a comic thriller that starred Gleeson with Colin Farrell a few years ago, and which was written and directed by this McDonagh’s brother, the celebrated playwright Martin.  John Michael M  hadn’t directed a feature before, and his action chops are rudimentary., although the photography by Larry Smith (he shot Eyes Wide Shut) is very attractive  McDonagh knows enough, though, to stand back and let his actors do their thing with his sharp dialogue, and that’s all The Guard really needs.

The Guard plays like the pilot for a TV series you’d instantly program into your DVR–it’s a procedural, but perfectly cast.  Gleeson and Cheadle bring style and infinite charm to their every scene, and overall, the movie is tremendously entertaining.  These two need to make another film together, as soon as possible.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."