Review: The Guard (2011): ‘One of the Best Movies of the Last 20 Years’


It may seem like hyperbole, but for me, John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard is one of the best movies of the last twenty years.


On a par with, if not slightly superior to his brother Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges (2008), which also starred the great Brendan Gleeson.


The plot concerns cocaine smuggling into the west coast of Ireland, where Gleeson’s wilful Sergeant Gerry Boyle teams up with Don Cheadle’s by-the-book FBI agent Wendell Everett to thwart the bad guys and crooked Garda Síochána (Irish police force) officers.


The Guard (2011) - Movie Trailer - HD

Pretty standard fare you may think.


But you’d be wrong.


Very wrong.



The plot throws you plenty of curves, so you never quite know where you are – and Gleeson’s character is a unique creation – as Cheadle’s Everett says to him:


‘You know, I can’t tell if you’re really motherf***in’ dumb, or really motherf***in’ smart.’


To me, everything works in The Guard – dialogue, casting, music, locations and pacing.



Aside from Gleeson and Cheadle, the standout cast includes Mark Strong (in almost every movie released since 2010), Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) and the excellent Fionnula Flanagan who you may recognise from The Others (2001) and Four Brothers (2005).


The relationship between Gleeson and Cheadle’s (who also exec produced) characters is especially good. 


A picture that rivals Withnail & I (1987) in terms of quotable lines – here’s a few scenes to illustrate this:


The Guard - "He's my favorite, Goofy" / Disney world/ Car talk scene (part 10) HD

British Gangster Vs 2 Irish Cops (The Guard - pay off scene)

The Guard - Five and a half / Now, what the fuck would that mean? / Fellini (part 6) HD

The Guard Funny Scene(High Quality)



Calexico* contribute an excellent score, whose Mexican themes strangely suit this South of the (NI) Border tale..


The Guard - All in a Day's Work


* in yet another example of name-dropping I used to know a Belgian singer who toured with the band

Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'