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THE GUARD (2011) (***1/2)

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It was a surprise when Brendan Gleeson was announced as a Golden Globe nominee for his role as a corrupt, drug using, foul mouthed cop. Once you've seen it you'll know why. He owns the role. The best statement said about his character is he's either really stupid or really smart.

Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a north Ireland police officer who is investigating a recent murder when FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle, HOTEL RWANDA) comes to town on a mission to stop an international drug ring. When Everett shows the local officers pictures of the suspects, Boyle wonders to the African-American agent how they could be drug dealers when their white. Everyone knows all drug dealers are black or Mexican. Boyle's defense for his racism is that he is Irish and it is part of his culture.

In fact, Boyle is just trying to get a rise out of Everett. He doesn't like city folk coming into his jurisdiction. He knows that his murder investigation is connected to Everett's drug case. The two sure make an unlikely pair. Everett just doesn't understand Boyle's complete lack of restraint. But one can expect anything from a man who will put a murder investigation on hold for a day so that he can have a fling with two prostitutes.

The best part of Gleeson's performance is the slyness he brings. Is he purposely trying to be offensive or is he just really naive about black people? Or could it be a bit of both? Why does he speak so openly about his drug use and fornication with hookers around his superiors and Everett? Have the drugs and booze made him clueless or does he know something akin to the "donkey photos" that give him a free ride? Is he the worst cop ever or some kind of Gaelic yojimbo? You'll change your mind from moment to moment.

How did he get this way? Well when you witness the f bomb filled visits with his mum Eileen (Fionnula Flanagan, FOUR BROTHERS) you'll get a clue. When he is strapped with a young partner named McBride (Rory Keenan, REIGN OF FIRE), you get the impression that he long ago came to the realization that by-the-book police work is pointless. McBride is from Dublin and for the Galway born Boyle, he might as well be from Wisconsin. Watch how cozy he gets with McBride's Croatian wife Gabriela (Katarina Cas). And you have to blame the movies. Boyle loves the idea of going out like the cowboys in THE WILD BUNCH, but he's too smart for suicide.

It's not a mystery where and when and who the drug dealers are, but Boyle's involvement is a mystery. He's got multiple motivations and a lot rides on which one he decides to follow. By the end though, we know for sure whether he is really flippin' stupid or really flippin' smart.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks