The Guard has been guarding a tiny village outside of Galway, Ireland for a long time. He has his routines and his eccentricities and he knows everyone else’s routines and eccentricities. When events disrupt his village and startles outsiders, the Guard never gets too excited about it and usually thinks things can wait another 24 hours. The Guard is Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) who is lonely, loves his dying mother, and gets his kicks from taking this piss out of outsiders, which not only means Americans, but from people as far away as Dublin as well.
Events do start happening in this sleepy hamlet though. An unorthodox murder is carried out with disturbing symbolism attached to the corpse which Sergeant Boyle does not get very much worked up about. Then FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) shows up in western Ireland and does not fit in very well. He’s African American and Sergeant Boyle does his best to pepper him with racist and stereotypical questions about African Americans and claims his ignorance about all of that stuff is because he is Irish and Irish culture is about being racist.
The screenplay is mostly funny when it comes to the interactions between Boyle and Everett. They spar with one another but work on figuring each other out. However, the script is a bit too clever and tends to show off how witty it can be. One of the lead criminals is Clive Cornell (Mark Strong) and he loves to sit back and pontificate about the lowlifes one must interact with in the drug business. A payoff to the cops becomes very awkward and drawn out and seems as if the screenwriter/director (John Michael McDonagh) was attempting a Guy Ritchie conversation which he does not pull off.
The criminals and what they are attempting to do in Galway is more background material though. The film’s focus is Sergeant Boyle and his strange idiosyncrasies. Gleeson has a lot of fun picking on Everett, zapping one-liners at the Dublin cops, and enjoying the comforts of a lady of the evening or two. He is a bit corrupt, but not in a completely self-serving way, more to help the community. After a car full of teenagers kill themselves in a road accident, he does away with their drugs so their mothers will not find out about it, after helping himself to some of course.
Unfortunately, the script puts on too many airs to fully recommend this film. Gleeson is fun to observe but the remaining characters including Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, and the rest of the philosophical gang are not very interesting to watch. The Guard is at its best when Gleeson is on screen messing about with the locals but the actual plot and its story are best left on the sidelines.