“The Guard” (2011)

brendan-gleeson-the-guard

★★★★★

You may have to go out of your way to find this movie, or maybe you’ll have to find it on DVD, but it will be worth the wait. This is one of the smartest and most well-made movies I’ve seen in a long, long while.

The basic premise is simplicity itself. Brendan Gleeson plays a highly eccentric Irish policeman. When international drug traffickers come to his small town, Don Cheadle from the FBI arrives to help work the case. Easy enough.

At first this movie seems charming but benign. Gleeson is foul-mouthed and mean-tempered. He samples drugs and hookers. But behind all that you sense a very keen mind. The first twenty minutes are entertaining, but the hook comes when the bad guys are revealed.

The first time you see them, they’re driving down a country road comparing Nietzsche quotes. They’re drug dealers and all that, but the level of discussion is very intellectual. It’s serious, yet hilarious at the same time because it is 180 degrees off from how drug dealers are usually portrayed. Even after they kill an officer who pulled them over, the ensuing dialog about disposing of the body from Mark Strong is priceless.

When Cheadle arrives, his first interaction with Gleeson is at a briefing Cheadle is giving to the local constabulary. Gleeson raises his hand and asks about how he thinks only “black lads” or Mexicans moved drugs. He plays the dumb bigot act perfectly and the viewer realizes that he’s just fucking around with a level of comic timing that’s impecable.

This is not your typical “buddy-cop” movie. It’s not “Rush Hour.” This is a thinking person’s movie – you have to pay attention to every line because there are so many gems. The dialog, direction, and acting are razor sharp. There’s some action in the end, but it’s incidental to the overall story. It’s funny, smart, poignant almost all at once.

Absolutely watch this movie.