Sometimes as you get to the end of a long week at work, mentally exhausted, desperate to leave the reality of working life behind as you head into the weekend, tired of tension and stress you need to relax, sit back and laugh. I found myself at the end of a very long week in this very position. I found myself impatiently checking the film listings searching out the usual suspects of entertainment at the multiplexes while hoping that there would be something worth watching at the local independent quirky cinema rather than the soul-less faceless misery inducing hell hole in which the masses seem to congregate. Why is it people insist on going to a cinema which takes the magic, warmth and art out of the movies?
Luckily there were two films on at the local indie, The Inbetweeners, based on the hit channel 4 series and The Guard. As we stood in the queue we remembered one of the reasons we’d chosen the latter as a group of 8 geeky lads bought tickets ready to re-live that holiday in Ibiza, one of the lads, all for one and one for… No. We chose The Guard and as it happens we chose wisely.
This fantastic black comedy from Michael McDonagh the brother of In Bruge director Martin McDonagh has shades of his brothers work; Brendan Gleeson stars as a dour man of the law, albeit living on the fringes of what his position allows, accompanied by an intensely professional Don Cheadle. There are long hanging shots of rugged countryside as well as the obscure angled long shots for the film aficionado. It’s a classic comic cop mis-pairing with the foul mouthed, racist, is he smart or is he dumb Gleeson played off masterfully against Cheadle’s smooth sophistication. But unlike many others in the genre a genuine warmth is built up between the characters and with the audience. The contrast of the bright American against the dimwitted Irishman never feels stereotypical, a feeling that one side is playing the other leaving the power deeply on the Irish side.
So it’s good cop bad cop working together to take down drug dealers, a classic story, but it is much more multi-layered, examinations of death, loneliness, pride, the relationship between suicide and honour are looked at without feeling contrived or placed for political statement.
There are standout performances from Mark Strong (the bad guy in Robin Hood) who gets the pick of the one-liners, with Liam Cunningham adding a depth and quality to every scene he is in and Cheadle playing the straight man and eyes of the audience in this twisted (and perhaps occasionally convoluted) story. But Gleeson steals the show, commands the screen, and makes sure that instead of going up in flames this film swims strongly amongst the great low budget films of the past few years… Well almost.. But you’ll have to see it to understand that reference.