The Guard (2011 film)

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The Guard
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Michael McDonagh
Written byJohn Michael McDonagh
Produced by
  • Chris Clark
  • Flora Fernandez-Marengo
  • Ed Guiney
  • Andrew Lowe
CinematographyLarry Smith
Edited byChris Gill
Music byCalexico
Distributed by
Release dates
Running time
93 minutes[1]
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • Irish
Budget$6 million[2]
Box office$21.2 million[3]

The Guard is a 2011 Irish buddy cop comedy film written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong and Liam Cunningham.[4][5]

The film received critical acclaim and was a box office success. Both Gleeson and Cheadle received acclaim for their performances, with Gleeson receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination. McDonagh was in turn nominated for a BAFTA Award for his writing achievement. It is the most successful independent Irish film of all time in terms of Irish box-office receipts, overtaking The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006).[6]


Sergeant Gerry Boyle is an officer of the Garda Síochána (police) in the Connemara district 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.

Boyle and his new subordinate, Aidan McBride, investigate a murder, with evidence apparently pointing to an occult serial killer. Shortly after, Boyle attends a briefing by an American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Wendell Everett, sent to liaise with the Garda in hunting four Irish drug traffickers led by Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, who is believed to be awaiting a massive seaborne delivery of cocaine from Jamaica. Boyle recognises one of the men in Everett's presentation as the victim of the murder he and McBride had been investigating. McBride pulls over a car driven by Sheehy and his lieutenants Clive Cornell and Liam O'Leary and is shot dead. McBride's wife, Gabriela, reports McBride's disappearance to Boyle, who promises to look into it.

The strait-laced Everett suggests that he and the unorthodox Boyle team up to track down Sheehy and his men. Everett makes the rounds, encountering Irish-speaking residents who pretend not to understand English rather than deal with an outsider. Boyle has a sexual encounter with a pair of sex workers 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. McBride's wife, Gabriela, an immigrant from Croatia, reports him missing and tells Boyle that McBride is gay and that she married him to obtain an Irish visa as well as to make McBride "look respectable".[7]

Meeting Everett at a local pub, Boyle notices a closed-circuit television camera and remembers that the original suspect in the murder case claimed to be frequenting it 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 pub. 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, Boyle discovers a cache of weapons hidden in the bog by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and says he will arrange its return. (It is later revealed that Boyle kept a few of the guns.) Shortly after having her last wish to hear a live pub band fulfilled, Boyle's mother kills herself by overdosing on pills.

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. Boyle pulls a Derringer (from the IRA cache) and kills O'Leary, then calls Everett to tell him 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 Boyle hands him an automatic rifle and persuades him to provide covering fire as he moves to arrest Sheehy and Cornell. Boyle 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 placed fourth at the 1988 Summer Olympics, a claim that Everett had dismissed. A young photographer comments that it would be easy enough to look up to verify as true. Everett remembers Boyle's remark that Sheehy's backers would not forget Boyle's actions and that Boyle would have to disappear were he to continue living, and smiles.




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.[4] 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.[4] Cinematographer Larry Smith is known for his work on Eyes Wide Shut and production designer John-Paul Kelly for his work on Venus.[4][9][10]


Principal filming began on 29 October 2009, in Lettermore County Galway. Filming took place over a six-week period in Connemara, Lettermore, Lettermullan, Spiddal, and Barna with some scenes for filming in Wicklow and Dublin.[4] Companies involved were Reprisal Films and Element Pictures in association with Prescience, Aegis Film Fund, UK Film Council and Crescendo Productions, with the participation of the Irish Film Board.[4]

International sales were handled by Metropolis Films and the film was released by Element Pictures Distribution in Ireland,[4][9][10] Optimum Releasing in the United Kingdom, Sony Pictures Classics in the United States and Alliance Films in Canada.


The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 94% approval rating with an average rating of 7.65/10 based on 134 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "A violent, crackerjack comedy with a strong Irish flavor and an eminently likable Brendan Gleeson in the main role."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 78 out of 100, based on reviews from 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12]

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."[13] 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."[14] 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."[15] 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."[16]

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."[17] 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."[18]


Award / Film Festival Year Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Golden Globe Award 2012 Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Brendan Gleeson Nominated [19]
BAFTA Award 2012 Best Original Screenplay John Michael McDonagh Nominated [20]
Australian Film Critics Association Award 2012 Best Overseas Film (English-Language) The Guard Nominated [21]
Berlin International Film Festival 2011 Best Debut Film - Honorable Mention The Guard Won [22]
BET Award 2012 Best Actor Don Cheadle Nominated [23]
British Independent Film Award 2011 Best Actor in a British Independent Film Brendan Gleeson Nominated [24]
Best Screenplay John Michael McDonagh Nominated
Douglas Hickox Award Nominated
Black Reel Award 2012 Best Supporting Actor Don Cheadle Won [25]
Casting Society of America 2012 Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Feature - Studio or Independent Comedy Jina Jay Nominated [26]
Chlotrudis Award 2012 Best Original Screenplay John Michael McDonagh Nominated [27]
Crime Thriller Award 2012 The Film Dagger The Guard Nominated [28]
Dinard British Film Festival 2011 Audience Award John Michael McDonagh
Reprisal Films
Won [29]
Coup de Coeur Won
Kodak Award for Best Cinematography Larry Smith
Reprisal Films
Silver Hitchcock The Guard Won
Evening Standard British Film Award 2011 Peter Sellers Award for Comedy The Guard Won [30]
Best Actor Brendan Gleeson Won
Best Screenplay John Michael McDonagh Won
NAACP Image Award 2012 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Don Cheadle Nominated [31]
Irish Film and Television Award 2012 Best Film Chris Clark, Flora Fernandez Marengo, Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe Won [32]
Best Director - Film John Michael McDonagh Won
Best Script - Film John Michael McDonagh Won
Best Supporting Actress - Film Fionnula Flanagan Won
Best Actor - Film Brendan Gleeson Won
Best Supporting Actor - Film Liam Cunningham Nominated
Best International Actor Don Cheadle Nominated
Best Production Design (Film/TV Drama) John Paul Kelly Nominated
Best Sound (Film/TV Drama) Robert Flanagan, Michelle Cunniffe and Niall Brady Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Award 2011 British Film of the Year The Guard Nominated [33]
Breakthrough British Filmmaker John Michael McDonagh Nominated
British Actor of the Year Brendan Gleeson Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Award 2011 Best Actor Brendan Gleeson Nominated [34]
Sarajevo Film Festival 2011 Audience Award for Best Feature Film The Guard Won [35]
Satellite Award 2011 Best Director John Michael McDonagh Nominated [36]
Best Actor - Motion Picture Brendan Gleeson Nominated
Best Original Screenplay John Michael McDonagh Nominated
Best Editing Chris Gill Won
Sundance Film Festival 2011 World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic The Guard Nominated [37]
Valladolid International Film Festival 2011 Best Actor Brendan Gleeson Won [38]


  1. ^ "THE GUARD (2011) (15)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  2. ^ "The Guard (2011)". Box Office Mojo. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  3. ^ "The Guard (2011) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Cheadle & Gleeson Join Forces For 'The Guard'". IFTN. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
  5. ^ Jaafar, Ali (4 November 2009). "Gleeson, Cheadle join 'Guard'". Variety. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
  6. ^ "'The Guard' Topples 'Barley' to Become No. 1 Indie Irish Film". IFTN. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  7. ^ Engelen, Leen; Heuckelom, Kris Van (21 November 2013). European Cinema after the Wall: Screening East-West Mobility. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-2960-0.
  8. ^ "The Guard (2011) - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  9. ^ a b Cooper, Sarah (2 November 2009). "Brendan Gleeson joins Irish comedy thriller The Guard". Screen International. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
  10. ^ a b Hayden, Esther (4 November 2009). "Gleeson and Cheadle line up for new movie". Bray People. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
  11. ^ "The Guard (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  12. ^ "The Guard". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  13. ^ McCarthy, Todd; McCarthy, Todd (21 January 2011). "The Guard: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  14. ^ Nast, Condé (23 January 2011). "Sundance 2011: Park City Thrills to The Guard and Like Crazy". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  15. ^ D'Arcy2011-01-21T09:26:00+00:00, David. "The Guard". Screen. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  16. ^ Chang, Justin (21 January 2011). "The Guard". Variety.
  17. ^ "The Guard at the Edinburgh Film Festival". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  18. ^ Hobbs, Georgie (28 February 2011). "Berlin International Film Festival 2011 – Round Up: Part II". Archived from the original on 19 April 2012.
  19. ^ Clarke, Donald (16 December 2011). "Fassbender and Gleeson nominated for Golden Globes". Irish Times.
  20. ^ "Fassbender, McDonagh in BAFTA Race". IFTN. 17 January 2012.
  21. ^ "AFCA 2012 Writing & Film Award Winners". AFCA Ward.
  22. ^ 61st Berlin International Film Festival February 10 - 20, 2011 V, accessed 1 November 2019
  23. ^ "BET Awards 2012 Nominees Announced". The Hollywood Reporter. 22 May 2012.
  24. ^ "2012 British Independent Film Awards Winners". Hitfix. 9 December 2012.
  25. ^ "2012 Black Reel Awards". Black Reel Awards. 10 February 2012.
  26. ^ "2012 CSA Artios Awards Winners - October 29, 2012". Casting Society of America. 30 October 2012.
  27. ^ "2012, 18th Annual Awards". Chlotrudis Society for Independent Films. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  28. ^ Jarossi, Robin (19 October 2012). "Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2012 Winners". Crime Time Preview. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  29. ^ Festival du Film - Retrieved 7 September 2013 Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "PHOTOS: British Film's Big Winners". HuffPost UK. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  31. ^ Allin, Olivia (18 February 2012). "[1]". ABC News. Retrieved 7 September 2013. Archived 6 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ "Winners of the Irish Film & Television Awards IFTAs | Irish Film & Television Academy | Irish Film & Television Awards". Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  33. ^ Mueller, Matt (20 January 2012). "London Critics Circle Give 'The Artist' and 'A Separation' Three Film Awards Each UPDATED". IndieWire.
  34. ^ "San Diego Film Critics Award The Artist Best Picture, Refn Best Director". Awardsdaily. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  35. ^ "17th Sarajevo Film Festival Awards". Sarajevo Film Festival. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  36. ^ "2016 Winners & Nominees | Categories | International Press Academy". Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  37. ^ Jay A. Fernandez; Daniel Miller (29 January 2011). "SUNDANCE: 2011 Festival Award Winners". The Hollywood Reporter blog Risky Business. Archived from the original on 30 January 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  38. ^ "'Hasta la vista' logra la Espiga de Oro de la Seminci 2011". 29 October 2011. Archived from the original on 22 June 2013.

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