. . . and if you happen to be in a city where the new movie The Guard, which opened today in NYC, is playing, go and see it.
I should begin by saying that I have an unusual skill, one I’ve never heard anyone else boast of: Just from watching a trailer and reading a couple of reviews, I can predict with uncanny accuracy whether I will like a particular movie. (Really: Some 97 percent of the time, I guess right.) The result is, I see a lot fewer movies I don’t enjoy than just about anyone else I know. But once every few weeks, I want to go to the movies just for the hell of it, with no hope whatever for the particular movie. That’s what I did today with The Guard — and I feel like someone who drunkenly emptied out his wallet on the roulette wheel, slurred out “Black 17” at random, and started to lope away distractedly, only to be called back: “Monsieur! Monsieur! Ze black seventeen!”
You see, The Guard looks like 1) a sentimental Irish-produced comedy about a small country town and 2) a fish-out-of-water, odd-couple, cop-buddy comedy — in other words, it belongs to not just one but two genres that looked like they had pretty much exhausted their possibilities many, many years ago. But this one is absolutely sparkling and fresh: There are laugh-out-loud moments from start to finish, so it works as a comedy; and the emotional stuff is grounded in realistic sentiment (as opposed to paint-by-numbers, transparent screenwriterly manipulation), so it also manages to draw a couple of surprisingly welcome tears.
The star is Brendan Gleeson, as a foul-mouthed roué of an Irish-small-town cop; American actor Don Cheadle plays an FBI agent who comes to Ireland in hot pursuit of a drug gang moving half a billion dollars’ worth of cocaine. The film’s plot works tightly, but is not especially important to its success: Go to this one for the laughs, and to have a good time in the company of likeable, terrifically well-written characters (especially Gleeson, but also Cheadle and even a couple of the villains).
I recommend this movie fervently, without any reservation, except the following: The lovable main character uses drugs, has sex with prostitutes, expresses a number of bigoted sentiments, and has a vocabulary in which roughly one out of every ten words is a four-letter one. So if you yourself are made uncomfortable by that sort of thing, or don’t want to expose your kids to it, please skip this movie. But I would stress that the roughness of Gleeson’s character serves to underscore his basic decency: He has flaws, but he is a good man who is capable of doing the right thing on important matters. I’m glad to have spent an hour and a half in his company.