Dominic Frisby has recently had “the best week of his life” during a trip to Ireland and while he was there, he bought himself a ticket and saw The Guard:
The secret of happiness can be explained in a simple equation: X > Y = Z. If reality (X) exceeds expectation (Y), the result is happiness (Z). But if reality is less than expectation, the result is disappointment (U). (X < Y = U).
How often have you been told you must see this film, that it’s absolutely brilliant, that so’n’so’s great, and you get all excited, only to leave the cinema with a sense of deflation and disappointment?
And how often have you reluctantly gone to see a film, knowing nothing about it, and left with an extremely pleasant feeling of surprise and elation?
I was in Dublin a fortnight ago working on a film. (In fact the whole trip exceeded expectation to the extent that I’d even consider moving there, but that’s another story). I had the Sunday off.
A couple of the people working on the film said, The Guard is good, so – knowing nothing more about it – off to the cinema I popped.
And I loved it. I really, really loved it. It made me laugh, it made me excited, I even felt inspired.
But I don’t want to get you too excited about it. It might just be that I liked it so much because I went in with fairly low expectations.
One of the lesser consequences of the West’s ridiculous laws on drugs are the number of films in which drugs and associated dealings play a key role in the plot. The Guard is another of these. An international cocaine smuggling venture has gone off course and the drugs must now be delivered to a small village on the West Coast of Ireland.
The hero of the story, Sergeant Gerry Boyle as played by Brendon Gleeson, likes drink, drugs and prostitutes. He is also one of the policemen charged with putting a stop to this drug deal on a detour.
He is paired with black FBI agent Wendell Everett, played by Don Cheadle, who finds himself continuously incensed by the locals, Gleeson in particular, and the absence of political correctness he here encounters in regard to his race.
With corruption, bribery and murder endemic, the other officers all lose the scent. It falls to Gleeson and Cheadle to confront the criminals alone.
With the backdrop of the windswept West Coast, the film is full of Irish flavour. It’s overflowing with eccentric local characters in a way that only seems to happen in films set in small villages, most particularly Irish ones. There are hundreds of jokes, many of which I imagine will (seeing as they can’t even understand Cheryl Cole) be lost on most American audiences.
And there’s a nice surreal thread to the film, woven largely by the three philosophical villains.
I’d like to single out Mark Strong for special mention. There aren’t many who can deliver his stylized dialogue and make it sound natural but Strong does just that.
The star of the show, though, is Brendon Gleeson. Overweight and understated, with a divine sense of the comic, he carries the film from its breath-taking beginning to its final denouement.
I’m quite traditional. Far more important to me than special effects or wacky camera angles is a good story, well told. This is that. Simple, witty and well crafted. Writer-director John Michael McDonagh has done it on a budget of, I’m told, just a million and half dollars. I’ve no doubt that bigger budgets now await.
The Guard is a good comedy thriller and if you like comedy thrillers, I think you’ll like The Guard. Just don’t expect too much…
The Guard finally opens across the UK today.