'The Guard' is the film that a lot of people are referring to as "In Bruges 2". Partly because they both star Brendan Gleeson, partly because the director of 'The Guard' is the brother of the director of 'In Bruges' but mostly because it is very similar in tone and feel. Both are billed as comedies and while highly comedic in places, both have far darker happenings at the heart of the story.
In the case of 'The Guard', it is the murder of Galway’s latest police recruit at the hands of an international drug smuggling ring fronted by David Wilmot, Liam Cunningham and the eternal baddie, Mark Strong. Deemed more than the Irish Guard can handle, Don Cheadle’s ever professional FBI agent is sent in to help.
Those are the bare bones - what happens after that is really a matter of perception, something the film plays on to great strengths. Gleeson’s character is simultaneously a racist, foulmouthed, drug-taking womaniser and a well-read, conscientious man who is doing all he can to take care of a sick mother and help the widow left by the murder. While we may see less of the latter, it’s these qualities that allow an unlikely friendship to blossom between him and Cheadle's Agent Everett character.
Thankfully the friendship develops naturally and is realistic, a refreshing change to so many unlikely-buddy movies that are played for laughs above anything else. The relationships in the film also provide the very effective emotional hook the audience needs. It could just be a comedy, it could just be a cop movie, but the more emotional storylines are what make 'The Guard' so engaging.
However, it would do the film a disservice to downplay the more comedic aspects. Wilmot, Cunningham and Strong are an unlikely but excellent trio, imminently watchable and very entertaining. In the more light-hearted scenes there is an undeniable glint in Gleeson’s eye which feels infectious, you can’t help but be charmed by him.
It’s difficult to decide whether this film is a comedy with added drama or a drama with some funny moments, but ultimately it doesn’t matter if the tone is sometimes inconsistent when the film is so enjoyable to watch. And, if like Agent Everett, you find yourself questioning some of what you’ve seen or heard by the close of play then 'The Guard' has fulfilled its intentions. Whether you leave feeling upset or optimistic is up to you.
'The Guard' is out in limited release across UK cinemas now.