The Guard (2011 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Michael McDonagh|
|Produced by||Chris Clark
|Written by||John Michael McDonagh|
|Edited by||Chris Gill|
Aegis Film Fund
|Distributed by||Element Pictures
Sony Pictures Classics
|Running time||92 minutes (Original release)
96 minutes (US release)
The Guard is a 2011 Irish dark comedy film written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong and Liam Cunningham. It is the most successful Irish film of all time in terms of Irish box-office receipts, overtaking The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) which previously held this status.
Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is an officer of the Garda Síochána in Connemara in the west of Ireland. He is crass and confrontational, regularly indulging in drugs and alcohol even while on duty. He is also shown to have a softer side, showing concern for his ailing mother, Eileen (Flanagan).
Boyle and his new subordinate, Aidan McBride (Keenan), investigate a murder in their jurisdiction, with evidence apparently pointing to an occult serial killer. Shortly after, Boyle attends a briefing by FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle), sent to liaise with the Garda in hunting down four Irish drug traffickers, led by Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (Cunningham), who is believed to be awaiting a delivery of cocaine coming into Connemara by sea. Boyle recognises one of the men in Everett's presentation as the victim of the murder he and McBride had been investigating. Around the same time, McBride pulls over a car driven by Sheehy and his lieutenants Clive Cornell (Strong) and Liam O'Leary (Wilmot) and is shot dead. McBride's wife, Gabriela (Čas), reports McBride's disappearance to Boyle, who promises to look into it.
The strait-laced Everett and the unorthodox Boyle are teamed up to track down Sheehy and his men but, while Everett makes the rounds, encountering language difficulties and uncooperative residents, Boyle has a sexual encounter with a pair of prostitutes (McElligott and Greene) at a hotel in town. On his way back from the hotel, Boyle spots McBride's Garda car at a "suicide hotspot" along the coast, but does not believe that McBride killed himself. Meeting Everett at a local bar, Boyle notices a CCTV camera and remembers that the original suspect in the murder case claimed to be frequenting the very same establishment at the time of the killing. Looking over the footage from the time of the murder, they see that the suspect's alibi is valid – and Everett also spots Sheehy and Cornell at the bar at the same time. Meanwhile, Cornell delivers a payoff to the Garda inspectors to keep them off the case, but Sheehy believes that Boyle will not be so easily swayed, after he meets with Boyle to half-heartedly attempt blackmail and then to offer a bribe, which is refused.
Tipped off by a young boy named Eugene (Lane), Boyle discovers a cache of weapons hidden in the marshes by the IRA and arranges its return to an IRA member. After having her last wish to hear a live pub band fulfilled, Boyle's mother dies. Meeting at the bar again, Everett tells Boyle that Garda sources indicate Sheehy's shipment will be coming into County Cork and that he is leaving to investigate. Returning home, Boyle is confronted in his living room by O'Leary, sent by Sheehy to kill Boyle to prevent him from interfering with the shipment. Boyle pulls a gun (purloined from the cache) and kills O'Leary, then calls Everett to tell him that he has learned that the Cork lead is a decoy arranged by corrupt officers. Boyle drives to the local dock where Sheehy's vessel is berthed and Sheehy's men are unloading the cocaine. Everett arrives and is persuaded to give Boyle covering fire as he moves to arrest Sheehy and Cornell. Boyle – taking a flesh wound to the arm – kills Cornell before leaping onto the boat to deal with Sheehy. Everett’s gunfire sets the boat alight. Boyle shoots Sheehy and leaves him for dead in the main cabin as the boat explodes.
The next day, Everett looks out on the water where the boat sank, believing Boyle to be dead. Eugene, standing nearby, mentions that Boyle was a good swimmer, having claimed to have been placed fourth at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, a claim that Everett had incredulously dismissed. A young photographer (Kinlan) comments that it would be easy enough to look up. Everett smiles to himself as he remembers Boyle’s oblique remark that Sheehy’s backers would not forget Boyle’s actions, and that presumably, Boyle would have to disappear. The final song, John Denver's cover of "Leaving on a Jet Plane," reinforces this possibility, that Boyle left the area, and didn't die.
- Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle
- Don Cheadle as FBI Agent Wendell Everett
- Mark Strong as Clive Cornell
- Liam Cunningham as Francis Sheehy-Skeffington
- Fionnula Flanagan as Eileen Boyle
- Michael Og Lane as Eugene Moloney
- David Wilmot as Liam O'Leary
- Sarah Greene as Sinéad Mulligan
- Rory Keenan as Garda Aidan McBride
- Dominique McElligott as Aoife O'Carroll
- Katarina Čas as Gabriela McBride
- Dermot Healy as Jimmy Moody
- Pat Shortt as Colm Hennessy
Film producers include Chris Clark, Flora Fernandez-Marengo, Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe, with executive producers Paul Brett, Don Cheadle, Martin McDonagh (brother of John Michael), David Nash, Ralph Kamp, Lenore Zerman and associate producer Elizabeth Eves. Director John Michael McDonagh is known for his screenplay for the 2003 film Ned Kelly and as writer/director of the 2000 film The Second Death. Cinematographer Larry Smith is known for his work on Eyes Wide Shut and production designer John-Paul Kelly for his work on Venus.
Principal filming began on 29 October 2009, in Leitir Móir (Lettermore) Co. Galway. Filming took place over a six-week period in Connemara, Leitir Móir, Leitir Mealláin (Lettermullen), An Spidéal and Bearna with some scenes for filming in Wicklow and Dublin. Involved companies are Reprisal Films and Element Pictures in association with Prescience, Aegis Film Fund, UK Film Council and Crescendo Productions, with the participation of An Bord Scannán na hÉireann (Irish Film Board).
International sales were handled by Metropolis Films and the film was released by Element Pictures Distribution in Ireland, Optimum Releasing in the United Kingdom, Sony Pictures Classics in the United States and Alliance Films in Canada.
Reviews for The Guard were mainly positive. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 95% approval rating with an average rating of 7.7/10 based on 121 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "A violent, crackerjack comedy with a strong Irish flavor and an emminently likable Brendan Gleeson in the main role." On the review aggregator Metacritic, the film has a score of 78 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy wrote: "Scabrous, profane, violent, verbally adroit and very often hilarious, this twisted and exceptionally accomplished variation on the buddy-cop format is capped by a protean performance by Brendan Gleeson a defiantly iconoclastic West of Ireland policeman." Vanity Fair's John Lopez wrote: "So far, The Guard has been the most thoroughly enjoyable film experience at Sundance, a nice change of pace from the anomie, alienated angst and melancholy of other films. In Screen International, David D'Arcy wrote: "As a director, McDonagh avoids the grand gesture and focuses on his web of odd characters that call to mind the comedies of Preston Sturges." Justin Chang of Variety wrote: "The film making crackles with energy, from Chris Gill's crisp editing and Calexico's ever-inventive score to d.p. Larry Smith's dynamic camerawork, alternating between bright, almost candy-coloured interiors and shots of Galway's grey, rugged landscape."
In The Times, Wendy Ide wrote: "Without doubt the strongest debut film of the year so far, this sly, witty and provocative Irish black comedy is an exceptionally funny crowd-pleaser and a playful cine-literate exercise, laced with arcane movie references... Gleeson must be thanking whatever guardian angel oversees his career for the brothers McDonagh giving him two of his meatiest roles yet." Georgie Hobbs of Little White Lies wrote: "Unexpectedly hilarious, The Guard is the triumphant directorial debut of Ned Kelly screenwriter (and brother of In Bruges director Martin), John Michael McDonagh... This confident film knows full well how funny it is, daring to provoke with unfettered 'unPCness' a-plenty."
- Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy – Brendan Gleeson (Nominated)
- The Guardian: First Film award for 2012. The Guard is the award's first non-British winner.
- "The Guard (2011)". Box Office Mojo. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "Cheadle & Gleeson Join Forces For 'The Guard’". IFTN. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
- Jaafar, Ali (4 November 2009). "Gleeson, Cheadle join 'Guard'". Variety. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
- "'The Guard' Topples 'Barley' to Become No. 1 Indie Irish Film". IFTN. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
- Cooper, Sarah (2 November 2009). "Brendan Gleeson joins Irish comedy thriller The Guard". Screen International. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
- Hayden, Esther (4 November 2009). "Gleeson and Cheadle line up for new movie". Bray People. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
- "The Guard (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
- "The Guard". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- McCarthy, Todd,"Brendan Gleeson Shines in The Guard. Hollywood Reporter review of 27th Sundance Film Festival", HollywoodReporter.com, 21 January 2011
- Lopez, John, "Park City Thrills to The Guard. Vanity Fair review of 27th Sundance Film Festival", VanityFair.com, 23 Jan 2011
- D'Arcy, David,"The Guard. Screen International review of Sundance 2011", ScreenDaily.com, 21 January 2011
- Chang, Justin,"Sundance: The Guard. Variety review of Sundance 2011", Variety.com, 21 January 2011
- Ide, Wendy, "The Guard at the Edinburgh Film Festival", TheTimes.co.uk, 16 June 2011
- Hobbs, Georgie,"Berlin International Film Festival 2011 – Round Up: Part II", Littlewhitelies.co.uk, 28 February 2011
- "Brendan Gleeson's The Guard wins Guardian award". BBC News – Entertainment and Arts. 10 February 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
- Pulver, Andrew (9 February 2012). "Guardian first film award: The Guard". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 February 2012.