Accessibility links

Maverick Cop, FBI Agent Team Up to Solve Irish Murder in 'The Guard'

  • Alan Silverman

The cops-and-robbers genre gets an Irish twist in a new film by writer-director John Michael McDonagh. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson co-stars with American Don Cheadle in this story set in the wild west of Ireland. Here's a look at The Guard.

"I've got some information about that murder last night."
BOYLE: "What murder?"
CALLER: "How many murders have you had in the last 24 hours?"
BOYLE: "Well, that's for us to know and you to find out."

To call Constable Gerry Boyle jaded would be kind. He keeps law and order in his own way on the rugged Connemara coast of western Ireland. So when American FBI agent Wendell Everett shows up in pursuit of a European drug cartel, Boyle is less than enthusiastic.

BOYLE: "It's my day off. Did I not tell you?"
EVERETT: "Let me get this straight: we're investigating a murder and the trafficking of over half a million dollars …"
BOYLE: "Billion."
EVERETT: "Half a billion dollars worth of cocaine and you're telling me it's your day off."
BOYLE: "I'm sure 24 hours won't make any difference."
EVERETT: "Twenty-four hours won't make any difference?"
BOYLE: "They're always saying it does in these cop shows on the 'telly,' but it doesn't - not in my experience anyway. Why do you keep repeating everything I say?"

Brendan Gleeson in "The Guard" Photo: Jonathan Hession

But in the grand tradition of maverick movie cops, Boyle proves to be a better investigator than even he himself could have imagined. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson stars as Gerry Boyle and understands his attitude.

"He had been 30 years, or whatever it was, plowing a lonely furrow and finding that, actually, what he was being confronted with were the small compromises - looking the other way, the small corruptions - and that he didn't get the test he wanted to get, so he had become quite disillusioned and quite aggressive," explains Gleeson.

Don Cheadle in "The Guard" Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Don Cheadle co-stars as the American FBI agent who first sees Boyle as an oaf but then learns to respect him as a law enforcement colleague.

"It's great that the guy that you think is a clown at the beginning turns out to be the smartest guy in the room," notes Cheadle.

His character, an African American, is out of his element in Connemara. The Oscar-nominated actor says that really was his own experience making the film there.

"A fish out of water playing a fish out of water," jokes Cheadle. "This is great. It's not often you get to marry the circumstances in that way, so I just thought it was going to be a great addition to the piece to not have to act that part. That was just the truth."

EVERETT: "Most of them don't even speak English."
BOYLE: "Oh, they speak English well enough. This is a Gaelic-speaking region. Did they not teach you that at Langley?"
EVERETT: "No, they did not teach me that at Langley for the simple fact that Langley is the CIA, you idiot, not the FBI."
BOYLE: "You didn't know that the people in the west of Ireland speak Gaelic and I'm the idiot."

Brendan Gleeson in a scene from "The Guard" Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

The Guard
is the directing debut of screenwriter John Michael McDonagh, brother of playwright Martin McDonagh who made "In Bruges."

The writer-director says his goal was to tell a good story, but it also had to be authentically Irish.

"American studios come over to Ireland and make these really, really bad films that are not representative of Irish life or the Irish people," notes McDonagh. "Sometimes you imagine they're going to have a farmer walk down the road with a pig under his arm at some points. They're really patronizing, they're not funny and they usually cast English actors doing really bad Irish accents, so they're kind of offensive as well. In this, every Irish role is played by an Irish actor."

Brendan Gleeson liked working with McDonagh enough to sign on for another film they hope to make together next year.