John Michael McDonagh – forever cursed to be billed as brother to In Bruges’ writer-director Michael – tries his hand at directing in this scalding debut. Starring Brendan Gleeson as foul-mouthed, small-town Garda Sergeant Gerry Boyle, Irish humour mixes with dark overtones create this wise-cracking black comedy. Don Cheadle co-stars as uptight FBI agent Wendell Everett sent to get to the bottom of a high profile drug trafficking scheme off the coast of Galway. A trio of mis-matched gangsters, including Londoner Mark Strong, run rings around the Garda in a cat-and-mouse game along winding country roads and a perishing coast.
Like Gleeson, it’s a little flabby around the middle but its rough-and-ready approach creates a medley of ridiculousness that somehow hits the right notes. Despite some over-stretching, its dialogue pays off. High-brow references and small-town idiosyncrasies clash in rib-tickling fashion, leaving us to ponder whether The Guard’s subjects are really mother-effing dumb, or really mother-effing smart.