In narrative terms, it's mostly an excuse to work in a trio of crooks whose banter may be even better than that of our hero; Mark Strong's disgusted rant about paying off policemen and Liam Cunningham – led musings on Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" are enough to justify the entire movie on their own.
Stream The Guard
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Only Boyle's unstoppable tendency to mouth off sustains the routine plot, but McDonagh pushes the limits of what he can make Gleeson say without making the crude nature of his asides overwhelm their comic potential.
A crusty jewel of a performance by Brendan Gleeson goes a long way toward enlivening an otherwise routine tale of murder, blackmail, drug trafficking and rural police corruption in The Guard.
Focusing the film on Gleeson was certainly the right choice. His performance is equal parts funny and unnerving, and he keeps viewers guessing about what drives the man and what he'll do next.
There's a story, in case you're looking for one, though it's almost an afterthought, just the thin glue holding everything together, including the fine cast, the sense of broody place and the fatalism that seems to come with it. Mostly there's Mr. McDonagh's playful, sometimes overly cute language, which serves the actors and also threatens to upstage them.
Like the recent "Perrier's Bounty," The Guard feels like it might play better at home than overseas.
One senses that The Guard is McDonagh's eulogy for the brusque, warts-and-all character of a passing generation of tough, working-class Irishmen, much as Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" was for vintage Americanism.
The Guard is John Michael McDonagh's caustically funny riff on cop and crime films.
In this offbeat buddy-cop comedy, Don Cheadle, as an FBI agent trying to stop a drug ring, makes the perfect foil.
The Guard may be a formula movie but McDonagh does wonders with the familiar character types and action climax.