The synopsis of “The Guard” reads like a standard police procedural. Renegade cop finds dead body, the FBI gets involved. Throw in some deadly drug smugglers and you have a Steven Seagal movie. Except this time you don’t. This time you have one of the most unexpectedly delightful movies of the year.
Brendan Gleeson (probably best known as Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter series) is Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a small town West Ireland cop. He’s the opposite of a by-the-book policeman. In fact he’s more interested in escorts, pilfering LSD from traffic victims and drinking beer at the local pub than he is in the drug ring that has landed in his village. Or at least that’s how it seems to FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) who comes to town to bring down the drug cartel.
Despite having all the earmarks of a cop fish-out-of-water picture “The Guard,” by virtue of its setting and Gleeson’s central performance, is anything but. The bucolic Irish countryside location gives the movie a chance to establish a fresh setting, unfamiliar to most viewers, far from the city streets where most cop dramas are placed.
Then there is Gleeson, the real reason to see the movie. He’s an Irish Columbo, under estimated by everyone around him until the chips are down. It’s a complex performance, amusing on the surface, but rich with pathos as Boyle’s life is slowly revealed. He’s brilliant but unhappy, a man mired in existentialist muck as only someone who has read all the Russian classics can be. (Did I mention he and his cancer ridden mom, played by the amazing Fionnula Flanagan, quote the Russian masters?)
“The Guard” is 100% Gleeson’s movie. The open-ended story leaves room for the possibility of a sequel, and for once I hope they continue the story. Boyle is a character I’d like to see more of.