The Guard (John Michael McDonagh, 2011)

What's it about? A laid-back, unorthodox sergeant on the West coast of Ireland (Brendan Gleeson) is teamed up with a straight-laced FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to investigate drug-smuggling activities in the area in a black comedy/thriller.

Is it any good? The mismatched cop set-up is hardly original, but this sets out to buck conventions from the start and delivers an entertaining affair with a black vein of humour and some unapologetically politically incorrect dialogue throughout. Some of the situations and the profanity seemed a little forced at times, whilst the balance of laughs and thrills is somewhat uneven, but it still has some laugh-out-loud lines and has an amusing Western-infused style and soundtrack (cos it's set in the West of Ireland, see?). Around the central duo, we get several comically off-kilter characters, including Pat Shortt as an IRA cowboy and Liam Cunningham & Mark Strong as philosophy-quoting drug traffickers, amongst others, which all adds to the entertainment. And best of all, we get a great performance from Brendan Gleeson as the bull-shitting, piss-taking, heavy-drinking, prostitute-using, drug-taking sergeant who's not quite the gobshite he seems to be.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Comparisons with In Bruges are inevitable, given that it was directed by McDonagh's brother, Martin, also starred Gleeson, and was a similarly un-PC black comedy. The Guard is not quite as good or affecting as that, but it was received well at various film festivals worldwide, especially in America, where the offbeat treatment of dodgy subjects like racism, drugs and hookers delighted the critics.

Anything else I should know? I met Brendan Gleeson once. Well, I say met, when I really mean I saw him across the street one day in Sligo. This was back in the summer of '95, when I bought my first six-string. He was sporting a bushy beard, dressed in a tatty tracksuit and was herding a pile of unruly kids into the back of a battered estate car with a frazzled look on his face. I caught his eye and nodded sympathetically. Movie stardom seemed a long way off that day, I can tell you. I'm sure he remembers me just as well.

What does the Fonz think? Arresting stuff.

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